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PCC seeks ideas from Irish press regulatory system

 

The Press Complaints Commission is looking at the Irish press watchdog system as a possible option for reforming the UK self-regulatory approach, according to reports.

Press Council of Ireland chairman Dáithí O’Ceallaigh is quoted by the Irish Times as saying the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Hunt, and other senior PCC officials have visited Dublin for a “lengthy meeting” to look at how the Irish press regulatory system works.

The Press Council is part of a two-tier approach introduced in Ireland in 2008. Complaints are first referred to a separate Press Ombudsman, who tries to deal with them through conciliation.

If a resolution cannot be achieved, the ombudsman can make a ruling based on a code of practice and can refer significant complaints to the 13-strong Press Council, which runs independently of government and media.

Mr O’Ceallaigh said:

The fact that they came here at all, and those discussions, reflect the fact that Leveson himself and a number of the witnesses at the inquiry in Britain have already publicly expressed their interest in the origins, the structure and the functions of the Press Council and the Press Ombudsman in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Lord Justice Leveson gave a strong hint yesterday afternoon about the regulatory structure he could recommend when his report comes out later this year.

He discussed allowing group complaints and introducing a “swift” system for dealing with privacy and libel issues without lawyers. Leveson also suggested that an ombudsman could give guidance on whether a newspaper needs to notify the subject of a story before publication.

He said yesterday:

Whatever comes out of this must be independent of government, independent of the state, independent of parliament but independent of the press. It has to have expertise on it or available to it, but must command the respect of the press but equally the respect of the public.

It seems to me that it can do lots of different things. I would like to think about a system that provides redress particularly to those who can’t afford to litigate.

At the moment, the PCC doesn’t take group complaints. So, for example – and I had a number of people giving evidence from, for example, the transgender community and other groups, who say, ‘Well, because there’s no name in this, there’s nobody to complain, and therefore there is no mechanism to obtain redress for them.’

Leveson also said there needed to be “some sort of mechanism to resolve disputes. So that can be consensual, the complaint-solving thing, but a mechanism in the absence of consensual resolution”.

I equally understand that there is an argument that in some circumstances requiring prior notification would lead to litigation and would kill the story. So there has to be some way of drawing a line.

One possibility might be to say there is some mechanism within the regulatory regime that allows the press to say: ‘Look, we have this story, we don’t feel we ought to notify the subject of it for these reasons: he’ll destroy the evidence’, or whatever and to get a view.

If either he doesn’t ask or alternatively he does ask and gets the answer: ‘No, we think you ought to notify’, then again, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t publish, it’s up to him, but then perhaps there should be a potential regime for exemplary damages. I’m just throwing out ideas.

But then I have another mechanism for swift resolution of privacy, small libel-type issues. Not the enormous stuff, perhaps an inquisitorial regime which can be done without lawyers, but some mechanism for members of the public to be able to challenge decisions and get a swift response.

On top of all that, one has to have a mechanism that means that sanctions work. I recognise entirely the parlous financial position of much of the press, but it’s important that sanctions are taken seriously.

Leveson added:

When I said to [Jeremy] Paxman that I didn’t want my report to end up on the second shelf of a professor of journalism’s study as yet another failed attempt, his only comment was to say: ‘As high as the second shelf?’

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Chris Bryant apologises for Murdoch-Cameron meetings claim

May 10th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

Labour MP Chris Bryant has apologised for falsely claiming in parliament that prime minister David Cameron held five secret meetings with Rupert Murdoch following the 2010 general election, that had not been declared.

Bryant, who is a “core participant” in the Leveson inquiry, told the Commons yesterday that he had “no intention” of misleading MPs. He has also apologised to Lord Justice Leveson.

He said:

On 25 April, I told the house that the Leveson inquiry had published certain information regarding meetings that had been held between Rupert Murdoch and the prime minister.

I believed at the time that that was the case, but it has subsequently turned out not to be true.

I have, of course, apologised to Lord Justice Leveson, but I thought I should take this opportunity to apologise to the house as well. I hope the apology will be accepted. I had no intention of misleading the house; that was purely inadvertent.

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Guardian: Biography claims David Cameron texted Rebekah Brooks before she quit NI

May 9th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

Copyright Lewis Whyld/PA

The Guardian has reported today that an updated biography of the prime minister claims David Cameron texted Rebekah Brooks before she quit as News International’s chief executive.

An article on the Guardian‘s website reports that Cameron allegedly texted Brooks “to tell her to keep her head up” days before she resigned from News International.

It has also emerged that he agreed to meet her at a point-to-point horse race so long as they were not seen together, and that he also pressed the Metropolitan police to review the Madeleine McCann case in May last year following pressure from Brooks.

The prime minister then sent an intermediary to Brooks to explain why contacts had to be brought to an abrupt halt after she resigned. The authors say the gist of that message was: “Sorry I couldn’t have been as loyal to you as you have been to me, but Ed Miliband had me on the run.”

The revelations were made in the updated version of Cameron: Practically a Conservative by Francis Elliot and James Hanning. Brooks is due to appear before the Leveson inquiry on Friday.

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Rupert Murdoch’s first day at #Leveson in his own words

April 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers, Politics

Rupert Murdoch’s first day of evidence to the Leveson inquiry covered a wide range of subjects, including his personal and professional interests, his thoughts on politicians and issues of newspaper ethics.

On newspaper ethics:

All of us regret that some of our colleagues fell far short of what is expected of them. I feel great personal regret that we did not respond more quickly or more effectively.

There have been abuses shown. I would say there are many other abuses but we can all go into that in time.

I don’t believe in using hacking. I don’t believe in using private detectives – it’s a lazy way of reporters not doing their job.

Reference to the infamous “It Woz the Sun Wot Won It” front page after the 92 election:

It was tasteless and wrong for us. We don’t have that sort of power.

Response to question on attacks made by the Sun on Neil Kinnock:

It was fair to attack his policies and even sometimes the way he expressed himself. I thought the Sun’s front page on the eve of the election was absolutely brilliant. We would have supported the Labour party if it had a different policy.

On his personal motivations:

I enjoy meeting our leaders, some impress me more than others and I meet them around the world. I could tell you one or two who have particularly impressed me.

If any politician wanted my opinion on major matters they only had to read editorials in the Sun.

It’s a myth that I used the supposed political power of the Sun to get preferable treatment.

If I had been interested in pure business I would have supported the Tory party in every election. They were always more pro-business.

On his relationship with politicians:

I’ve explained that politicians go out of their way to impress the people in the press. I think it’s part of the democratic process, all politicians of all sides like to have their views known by editors in the hopes their views will be put across and they will impress people. That’s the game.

On Thatcher:

I became [a great admirer] after she was elected and I remain a great admirer

On Gordon Brown:

He later, when the hacking scandal broke, made a totally outrageous statement that he had to know was wrong and he called us a criminal organisation, because he said we had hacked into his personal medical records, when he knew very well how the Sun had found out about his son, which was very sad.

On Alex Salmond:

I don’t know much about the SNP, I just find him an attractive person.

He’s an amusing guy and I enjoy his company; I enjoy listening to him.

On the BBC:

It’s a waste of time to speak to politicians about the BBC.

Prime ministers all hated the BBC and all gave it everything it wanted.

On The Hitler Diaries:

When the editor told me very excitedly that they’d bought these British rights to documents from a very reputable German publisher, he got [historian Hugh Trevor-Roper - Lord Dacre] to go to Switzerland to examine those diaries and after some hours with them he declared he thought they were genuine.

Very close to publication, people were debating it and Lord Dacre did show doubts. The majority of us thought we should go ahead. I take full responsibility for it – it was a major mistake I made and one I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.

For more coverage, read Journalism.co.uk’s liveblog of today’s proceedings and articles on Murdoch’s regret over phone-hacking and meetings with Thatcher about The Times.

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Friday deadline for core participant status for next Leveson inquiry module

March 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal

The judge leading the public inquiry into press ethics has called for applications for core participant status for module three of the Leveson inquiry, which will look at the relationship between the press and politicians.

Lord Justice Leveson is currently hearing module two of the inquiry, the relationship between the press and police, having heard evidence for module one, the relationship between the press and the public.

According to an announcement on the inquiry website applications for core participant status - which allows participants to be legally represented at the inquiry and have questions asked on their behalf – must be made by the end of Friday (30 March).

These applications and other issues will be considered at a directions hearing for module three to be held at 2pm on Tuesday, 2 April.

Module four will look at “recommendations for a more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards”.

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Met police representatives and crime reporters before Leveson inquiry this week

March 12th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Legal

Copyright: Sean Dempsey/PA

The Leveson inquiry moves into week three of module two today, starting with evidence from Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police and Sir Dennis O’Connor, head of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

On Tuesday Dick Fedorcio, director of communications at the Met Police, will give appear before the inquiry.

It is expected that Fedorcio will be asked about his relationship with journalists at News International and also about the advice he gave senior officers on socialising with journalists.

On Wednesday morning Jeff Edwards, representing the Crime Reporters’ Association, will give evidence, along with journalists from the Guardian, the Independent and the Times. A written statement from a Daily Telegraph journalist will be read.

On the last day of this week’s hearings evidence will be heard from the Sun’s Mike Sullivan, who was named in the press as one of four current and former journalists at the Sun arrested and bailed by officers from Operation Elveden on Saturday, 28 January.

See the full witness list here.

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Leveson inquiry has cost £2m so far

March 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

The Leveson inquiry into press standards has cost £2 million to run so far, figures made public on the inquiry website reveal.

By 31 January, the inquiry, which was set up last July, had spent £1,992,600 and had sat for 35 days. About a third of the spending (£682,100) goes on the secretariat, and another quarter (£536,100) on counsel to the inquiry.

£82,000 has been spent on deputy judges to cover the Court of Appeal while Lord Justice Leveson chairs the inquiry. IT and broadcasting costs add up to £214,700 so far.

The full details can be found on the Leveson inquiry website.

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Seminar to discuss Carnegie UK Trust’s ‘plan for better journalism’

March 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

A joint seminar will be held at City University London today with the Carnegie UK Trust to discuss the recommendations made in its report ‘Better Journalism in the Digital Age’.

The report, which was published in February to be submitted to the Leveson inquiry, included the charity’s ‘plan for better journalism’, a series of seven recommendations including a call for all journalists and news organisations to adhere to an “industry-wide code of conduct”.

Author Blair Jenkins, a Carnegie Fellow who was previously head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland and STV, said in the report that a “credible and realistic” code of conduct adhered to throughout the industry “would represent perhaps the greatest sustainable improvement that could be made”.

Many different news organisations in the UK and elsewhere have editorial guidelines or declared standards to which they expect journalists to adhere.

There seems little doubt that this is important. However, getting all journalists to observe a clear and consistent ethical code of conduct would represent perhaps the greatest sustainable improvement that could be made in UK news media.

And it is possible to create a credible and realistic code of conduct which would embody very high standards and values.

In the report he cites the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics in the US as “one persuasively well-written set of editorial guidelines”, and “a model from which we can learn”.

There is a definite sense in the SPJ code of journalists themselves actively trying to encourage and advocate high standards of personal professional conduct. It may be precisely because any form of mandatory regulation is constitutionally impossible that journalists have striven to adopt and uphold higher levels of editorial and ethical behaviour.

An adaptation of this kind of code and these priorities could pave the way for a more consistently ethical approach by journalists in the UK. However, in order to have authenticity, such a code would have to embody and express the highest aspirations of journalists in the UK.

Other recommendations by the charity include calls for “a regulatory solution that is independent of both government and the newspaper industry, to avoid real or perceived interference and conflicts of interest”.

In reference to compliance, Jenkins said he believes “it should be possible to devise incentives which secure unanimous support and participation”, such as through the system of press accreditation and “access to important venues”.

He also refers to “registered news organisations” being able to show a “recognised standards mark on their various outlets”. During the Leveson inquiry the idea that online news outlets in the UK could be kitemarked to illustrate their regulation was also discussed.

A kitemarking system also formed part of the recently proposed new Media Standards Authority (MSA), to regulate non-broadcast media, by a number of industry figures led by barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC.

Other recommendations include “the maintenance or strengthening of public service broadcasting”, calling on “civil society organisations” to provide financial backing to new journalism projects, “a renewed emphasis in journalism education and training” and a focus on completing the installation of high-speed broadband “to enable universal access to a wide range of digital news services and participatory media”.

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Independent backs Paul Dacre’s press card proposal

February 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Paul Dacre giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry yesterday

The Independent has supported Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s suggestion to create a register of accredited journalists and toughen up access to the press card.

In a leader article today, the paper agreed that the “kitemark” system had potential, claiming: “Some information sources are more reliable than others.”

Mr Dacre was right that the idea that journalists should be licensed by the state is repellent to the fundamentals of press freedom. But there is merit in his suggestion for a body replacing, or sitting alongside, the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be charged with the wider upholding of media standards.

One of its functions might be the issuing of a press card which could be suspended or withdrawn from individuals who gravely breach those standards. And while some people will argue that a kitemark for professional journalism might threaten freedom of expression in an age when much news and comment originates with bloggers and social networks, there is no danger to that freedom in giving the public what might be called a quality reassurance. Some information sources are more reliable than others.

Dacre admitted yesterday that he hadn’t given much thought to whether digital journalists would be eligible for the scheme.

The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh says Dacre’s proposal risks pushing bloggers “right to the fringes of the system

Meanwhile, where would foreign media, with their own rules, fit in? Nor is it certain that a Dacrecard system would be effective. Whilst some of the reporting closed shops, most obviously the political lobby, confer benefits, being outside it does not hamper quality political journalism. It could be surprisingly easy to make a mockery of the Dacrecard system.

TheMediaBlog agrees:

This self-serving suggestion is a clear attempt to ostracise whole swathes of the predominantly online media industry who would eat Dacre’s lunch given half the chance.

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BBC News: The editors’ views from the Leveson inquiry

January 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

BBC News has compiled a table of views as shared by newspaper editors at the Leveson inquiry, giving readers the opportunity to closely compare the standpoints of each editor on key points.

The table sets out “how the editors’ evidence compares” and includes key points on given by the editors “on researching stories”, “media regulation” and a “key quote”.

See the table here.

See Journalism.co.uk’s coverage of the Leveson inquiry here.

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