The director of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) Stephen Abell has come out fighting in an article on Index on Censorship after Labour peer Lord Puttnam said earlier this week that the regulatory body should be shut down.
Speaking in a speech on parliament and young people on Tuesday, Puttnam said the PCC should be scrapped if newspapers failed to improve their behaviour within a year. In comments made to MediaGuardian, he said the PCC should work to prevent “the slow reduction of politics to a form of gruesome spectator sport” and “ensure the general representation of young people is more representative of reality”.
Abell says Puttnam’s remarks were not based on “well-informed and considered comment” about the PCC’s role and work, but says they are a starting point for debate:
Lord Puttnam is keen to assert that the PCC “cannot” instruct newspapers to be nicer to politicians and young people (two items on his wish list) without pausing to ask the question: should it? There must be the argument that if any body – even a self-regulatory body like the PCC – were to dictate the tone of political coverage, or suggest that there should be more positive stories on youth issues, the result would be a very significant restriction on freedom of expression.
However, and this is very important, he is right that the PCC must be active agents in maintaining newspaper standards. The coverage of politics, or of issues affecting the young, are two important areas. The PCC must ensure that we hold editors to account for what they report and how they report it. We must ensure that inaccuracies are corrected, intrusions and distortions prevented.
Related reading on Journalism.co.uk: Stephen Abell’s first interview as the new director of the PCC.