Former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade has backed statutory underpinning for a new press regulator.
Greenslade – a professor of journalism at City University who writes for the Guardian and Evening Standard – told the Leveson Inquiry self-regulation had failed to work.
His written statement read: “I think self-regulation could, and should, have worked. It did not. I have struggled to come to terms with the need for some kind of state involvement. In order to clean the house and to restore public confidence in our journalism, I reluctantly agree that parliament will need to provide enough power to a regulatory system to ensure that it has real teeth.”
He said today a new regulator should have statutory underpinning but pointed out the state should not have involvement in the running of the body or the appointment of executives. He said a plan put forward by the Press Standards Board of Finance chairman Lord Black was a “bureaucratic spider’s web”.
He said: “[PressBoF have] obviously spent a huge amount of time trying to do this, but it stuck me that it’s a sort of bureaucratic spider’s web, and the spider is the industry still at the centre of the web, controlling everything, and it seemed that they still have far too much control in order to alleviate public disquiet that this is still an industry organisation in which [owners and editors] still have too many levels of influence.”
Greenslade said he was surprised when Lord Hunt – chairman of the Press Complaints Commission – agreed that the PCC was not a regulator.
He added: “I was consistently saying this was not a regulator and suddenly from July 2011 onwards everybody now seems to be agreeing with what I’ve been saying for 20 years.”
He told Lord Justice Leveson: “We have this chance to improve the standards and ethics of our profession, trade, craft, whatever you care to call it, and I think that we’ve had periodic bouts of bad behaviour and we need to devise a final system that for the moment, while we still have print, can actually stop the dominance and power of large organisations to make life incredibly miserable for other people.”
Statutory underpinning not state control, says former Number 10 advisor
Tim Suter, a former Downing Street advisor and Ofcom executive, has today warned against regarding the statutory underpinning of a new regulator as state control.
He told the inquiry: “Everybody has set up this dangerous notion that the state would dictate what the press could do, would dictate the standards by which the press had to operate and would form limits as to what was or was not acceptable. I see statutory underpinning as being further removed from that, as setting a framework within which the regulation happens, but where the regulation itself is carried out by independent bodies dealing directly with the press and the related entities.”
Suter – who heads advisory group Perspective – recommended the broadcast regulator act as a backstop for a future press body, and said publishers could be directly regulated by Ofcom if they chose not to join an independent system.
He added: “The reason for inserting the [Ofcom] content board’s role in there is to create an additional layer between those who are directly appointed by government and the regulatory bodies who are charged with regulating the press.
“What I do think will be helpful is for there to be a single framework within which all of the content that we as the public believe needs to be regulated, that that framework can encompass everything and can authorise the necessary regulatory bodies who will be able to carry that out in a way that is in response to the way that industry is developing, the way that audiences are consuming content, but that is still rooted in what the public believes should be delivered in terms of safeguarding our standards.”