February 23, 2005
Calls for PCC to be scrapped
'Toothless and ineffectual' press regulator targeted in Private Members' Bill
A private members’ bill seeking the abolition of the Press Complaints Commission was published yesterday.
Labour MP Peter Bradley is introducing the bill to provide a statutory right of reply for inaccuracies published by newspapers. The bill is said to have cross-party backing as well as support from the National Union of Journalists, Mediawise and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Bradley described the PCC as “toothless and ineffectual”. Whilst maintaining that the Bill would not interfere with the freedom of the press, the Labour MP said “if newspapers have rights, so should the people they write about. Individuals have a right not to be misrepresented and the public has a right not to be misled.”
“The vast majority of the thousands who complain each year to Press Complaints Commission are people the PCC describes as ordinary. Too often their lives and livelihoods are irreparably damaged by a newspaper’s casual inaccuracies and too often their complaint is ignored by the editor. Currently they have two choices: either to take their case to the Press Complaints Commission which has proved over many years to be toothless and ineffectual or to the courts which few can afford.”
Under the proposals, newspapers would be required to publish a prominent correction within three days of being informed of any inaccuracy. If the matter were not resolved satisfactorily, the complainant would have the right to complaint to an independent adjudicator. An appeal would lie from the adjudicator to a new Press Standards Board, the rulings of which would be enforceable through the courts.
The Right of Reply and Press Standards Bill is expected to get its Second Reading in the House of Commons this Friday, although it is unlikely to receive government support.
* non-resident practising member