Given the present climate, the British Press Complaints Commission seems to be something of an endangered species. However, there are still certain members of the media who are rallying for its continued existence.
U.K. Media Lawyer Tony Jaffa wrote a piece for Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, which the Editors' Weblog reported on yesterday, arguing the merits of the PCC.
Now Nigel Pickover , editor of The Ipswich Evening Star, has made a public declaration of support in favour of the PCC. It seems that, much like Tony Jaffa, Pickover fears that changed to the regulatory system would damage regional publications.
Speaking to Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, Nigel Pickover explained:
"I believe the PCC has had a really bad press in recent days, undeservedly so, and I am happy to leap to its defence.
"I think there does need to be a new body, with toughened up regulatory powers, but for the national newspaper industry."
The question of a two tier system of regulation is controversial. Surely, all journalists and news organisations should be required to meet the same standards? It has been made clear that the Press Complaints Commission did not effectively tackle the problem of phone hacking. However, one recent incident in Wales illustrates what Nigel Pickover refers to as the "good work" that the PCC does "in the provinces".
According to The Press Gazette, local paper The Cambrian News published details of a minor's medical condition without obtaining proper consent from his parents. The PCC ruled that "it appeared that the newspaper had not taken any steps to verify independently that consent had been given.
"This was inadequate in light of the requirements of both clause 3 and Clause 6" of the PCC Editors' code of practice, which protect every person's "right to respect for their health" and young people's rights "to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion".
As local newspapers are extremely reliant on good communication and an established relationship with the communities that they cover, this kind of reprimand from the PCC is often all that is necessary. In this case, the parents of the minor have demanded a public apology and an "offer an assurance that it would obtain appropriate parental consent in future, and accept that the issue had not been caused by a 'misunderstanding'."
However, as Nigel Pickover admits to Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, "I wouldn't say we fear the PCC," even though "we deeply respect the organisation and work very hard to resolve any issues".
Is it necessary for journalists to fear the regulatory body that governs them? Nigel Pickover would argue that it is not, particularly for the regional press. However, Pickover and those in his corner have a lot of persuading to do. Is it really right that press freedom should be governed by two varying standards? Would the public and politicians accept a modified version of the PCC? These are all questions to which only the forthcoming Media Ethics Inquiry will provide concrete answers.