NEWS-BITE | PR | Regulation: The PR Consultants Association yesterday published its response to last month’s Leveson Report, recommendations from which are currently being considered by the government. The major debate stemming from the report, of course, is whether or not a new independent press regulator should be ultimately controlled by statute.
The issue currently splits the UK Coalition partners, with the Lib Dems backing Leveson’s proposal that while press regulation should be independent from both the newspaper industry and government, it should be ingrained in legislation, while David Cameron’s Tories are generally of the opinion that, providing the new press overseer is sufficiently independent, a change in law should not be required. Though he’s possibly wobbling on that viewpoint, despite support from most (though not all) of Fleet Street.
For its part, the PR industry trade body backs Cameron and most of the newspaper owners. Director General Francis Ingham told esPResso: “We agree that there should be a stronger independent regulatory body. But we do not agree that there is a need for legislative underpinning, nor for OfCom or any other statutory body to recognise the work of the regulator”.
He added: “Statutory underpinning to deal with a handful of recalcitrant journalists in an industry which broadly functions well would be the proverbial sledge hammer to crack a nut. The majority of our press act responsibly already and will continue to do so. A free press holds the PR industry and those that it represents to account, and we believe that the healthiest environment for our industry is one where there is public trust in our communications”.
Inham’s comments followed a survey of 100 PRCA members, in which 26% said they
favoured a non-statutory newspaper ombudsman while 31% supported a revamped Press Complaints Commission with tougher powers.