Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Toughen the PCC or the politicians will control the press

To the annual Cudlipp lecture last night - held in honour of the great man - delivered by Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times.
As with previous lecturers, he wasn't afraid to stick his head above the parapet. He didn't pull his punches when dealing with the crisis facing journalism and the threat that brings.
He said what I have been saying for some time, that politicians will find a way to get back at the press for their exposure in the expenses scandal. They had a chance to do this over the Telegraph entrapment of LibDems but flunked it, as Barber pointed out.
But phone hacking is manna for them. All the focus has so far been on the News of the World but it is beginning to spread out and hardly a paper will avoid being targetted in the weeks ahead.
So where is the Press Complaints Commission in all this? A pathetic irrelevancy, I am afraid. It was described as having failed by Barber.
When I was on the PCC review group of the Media Standards Trust, I fought to get its report to acknowledge the difficulties journalists and papers work under, while proposing changes in the workings of the PCC that would make it effective.
The danger for the press is that eventually the Commission will be shown to be so hopeless at dealing with the excesses of the industry that the politicians say, Well, nothing for it then, we are going to have to regulate. That would be a disaster for freedom of the press. Look at whatr is happening in Hungary.
Self-regulation is the only acceptable way to control the press but whenever the PCC is faced with a really challenging problem, it backs off. That may allow editors to breathe a sigh of relief but it is only momentary relief. It is just storing up a huge disaster ahead.
I could never believe that the PCC let Piers Morgan off the hook over the Slickergate scandal. It actually had emails which proved he knew what was going on but still claimed there was no evidence that he did.
Now it has failed to act over phone tapping. So the police will and the courts will and, ultimately, the politicians will.
Journalists have most to lose from curbs on their freedom. It is beyond time we demanded that we have an effective, tough Press Complaints Commission that recognises the restrictions on the press, fights on behalf of the media but comes down very hard on transgressors.

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