An eleven-month review into the workings of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has made 75 recommendations but is not suggesting any fundamental alterations in the ways in which the PCC works.
The relatively modest total set of recommendations is in contrast to the views of the Culture, Media and Sport committee in the House of Commons, which earlier this year recommended major changes to the work of the PCC, including giving it the option of fining publications for breaching its code.
The Press Gazette‘s Dominic Ponsford has said the review is “basically window dressing”:
It is significant that the review talks about making public the minutes of PCC meetings, publicly admonishing editors and holding more hearings where journalists should answer for their crimes in person.
But although it talks about looking at ways to beef up existing sanctions, there is nothing in the report which explicitly states that a page-one cock-up should result in a page-one apology and clarification – something which critics of the press have long argued for, with some justification…
There is no call for a fundamental change in the way in the way the PCC works in today’s report, because – although far from perfect – fundamentally the PCC isn’t broken.
The review’s recommendations include:
- A clearer role for the PCC – it should publicly define its purpose and range of activities, including when it will act proactively, and give more information about how complaints are handled, what sanctions are available and how rulings can be challenged
- Encourage industry members themselves to refer ethical issues to the PCC
- A new Deputy Chairman post in order to enhance the influence of the lay (public) members of the PCC
- Greater transparency over how appointments are made to the PCC
- More scrutiny of how effectively the PCC runs its business, e.g. how quickly complaints are handled and how happy complainants are with the outcome