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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Baroness Buscombe–The Press Complaints Commission–“missing in action”–is grilled by Andrew Neil


  1. Hi Peter,

    It seemed to me that the Baroness was claiming that once the press indulged in illegal activities her Commission had no interest, as it became a Police matter. What is the purpose of her Commission if it has only been set up to monitor "legal" actions? Should it not be its raison d'etre to investigate and prevent illegal activities from occurring within its membership organisations?

    In my opinion it is high time that there was a Code of Conduct for the press which it should be illegal to transgress. It need not be restrictive, but should include such basics as not intercepting mail, tapping 'phones, deceptive impersonation etc. Even though one would have thought that such things were already illegal they seem to be indulged in frequently.

    That would be a start, and appears to go further than the toothless employers' protective PCC does at the moment.


  2. I agree, Rab, although I think we must be very cautious in exactly how we restrict Press freedom. If the wrong kind of 'Code' had been in operation, the Telegraph could never have exposed the expenses scandal, the truth about Iraq would have been suppressed and even the truth about phone hacking as exposed by the Guardian.

    Of course, we now have the new media, and the print media are in decline, so 'they' can no longer deny us the truth completely. I think the American press model is still a reasonable one - the Fourth Estate still has professional standards there, effective investigative journalism, but also some principles and professional standards, things that are sadly absent in much of the UK press.

  3. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your considered reply. I have no knowledge of the mechanisms of press control in America, but it has been widely quoted that if "Watergate" had occurred in Britain it would have remained unreported. It seems the transgressions of the law here have been greater than anything the American press corps undertook in those investigations - if that was the theme of your comment. And similarly, their code has not prevented the rise of Fox News, which you regularly (in my view correctly) excoriate.

    The problem is easy to state - seeking a balance between the individual's right to privacy - recognised as a human right - and the press's right to investigate. The solution not so, however I still think it might be possible to achieve a better balance than we have just now - which is effectively none at all. And as you say, any effective system, whether compulsory or not relies on the good intentions and high moral standards of those operating it for its success, and I too believe these are missing in the British press today.


  4. Good riddance to the "toothless poodle":