13 January 2009

PCC too weak? 'Bollocks' says Sir Christopher Meyer

Sir Christopher Meyer has dismissed the idea that the Press Complaints Commission is too weak as "bollocks".

By Owen Amos

Meyer – who will stand down as PCC chairman in March – was asked if the PCC was a “fig leaf” for press ills, to which he replied: “It’s a load of bollocks.”

Meyer was in conversation with Raymond Snoddy at an event held by The Media Society, The Society of Editors and Polis at the London College of Communications last night.

He said PCC rulings were feared by newspaper editors, adding: "Nothing makes editors scream louder than when they know a complaint is going to go to a formal adjudication.

“I tell you, this really concentrates the mind – to be named and shamed in their own newspaper. Most editors will stay in the privacy of their own boudoir, they’d prefer a system of fines.”

Meyer, who had a long diplomatic career and was John Major's press secretary from 1994 to 1996, said self-regulation – though not perfect – was preferable to state control of newspapers.

“I came into the job with a number of prejudices – my first was that any form of state regulation of editorial content of newspapers and magazines was objectionable,” he said.

“It came from my experience as a press secretary… I realised, working for a government that was extremely weak from 1995, that even then the advantage the government had [in controlling the flow of information]…was extraordinary.”

When a member of the audience suggested a privacy law passed by parliament, and debated in public, would be preferable to case law made by judges, Meyer said such a law could become a “rich man’s charter” - and would still be subject to judicial interpretation.

“No matter how involved the debate, you wouldn’t have much more than general principles,” he said.

“I think the argument has a lot of validity but I think it would end up in a horrible mess.”

Meyer said case law had constrained newspapers. “The legal space in which newspapers and magazines operate is much more constrained than it used to be,” he said.

And he added that the 47 judges at the European Court of Human Rights, rather than their British counterparts, could have a more severe impact on press freedom.

“I know of a [European] judge who believes newspapers' role is to inform, not entertain,” he said.

“I know one judge who believes newspapers’ role is to defend the reputation of public figures, for Christ’s sake.”

Source: Press Gazette

1 comment:

  1. [i]“I know one judge who believes newspapers’ role is to defend the reputation of public figures, for Christ’s sake.”[/i]

    Kind of says it all, really.

    ReplyDelete