UK Media News: The PCC Failure, a Superinjunction Inquiry and a FOIA Extension
Interesting media news, one that relates to the McCanns and the PCC, another that relates to Carter Ruck [the McCann couple lawyers] and the abuse of the 'superinjunctions' in the media and another article on the future extension of the FOIA to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Article extracts and links follow bellow.
PCC attacks MPs' report
Regulator criticises select committee's proposal for new powers and defends record over phone-hacking and McCann case. The Press Complaints Commission has today questioned whether a proposal by a parliamentary select committee that it should have the sanction of [...] The press regulator said that the select committee had "failed to acknowledge the current level of proactive work undertaken by the PCC". Issuing "public warnings" without having received a complaint about an article was a policy that "fatally undermined" the credibility of its predecessor, the Press Council.
"It is in this context that the PCC's actions in regard to the McCann case must be viewed. It would not have been possible, contrary to the select committee's assertions, for the commission to have come to an independent view in May 2007 on questions of accuracy or impropriety in the reporting of the McCann case," said Abell.
"The PCC would clearly have needed information from those at the centre of the story to do so. At that point, the commission had already sought to engage with the McCanns and make itself available to offer all necessary assistance. The McCanns publicly thanked the PCC for its work in dealing with harassment and protecting the privacy of their children. They elected, as was their right, to pursue other matters through the courts," he added.
"However, the commission is committed to learning lessons from a case that led to a significant amount of public concern about press standards. It does accept that it could have done more to direct the McCanns' concerns about reporting, and to channel them into more formal complaints. It will take this on board for the future."
The PCC also said that it "proper role" is to uphold press standards through a system to allow editors to be held to account and not to "uphold general standards relating to taste and offence". more in the Guardian
Related also here at Press Gazette PCC: ‘MPs have failed to acknowledge the work we do’ «The Press Complaints Commission has hit back at a recommendation from MPs that it should have tougher powers and be able to suspend publication of newspapers in extreme cases.
In February the Media, Culture and Sport select committee condemned the PCC overs its investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World and its “failure to intervene in irresponsible press coverage following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in February”.
Committee chairman John Whittingdale said the PCC needed to take a more active role in upholding standards because it is seen as “lacking credibility and authority” . The report named “Press Standards, Privacy and Libel” called for an appointment of a deputy director to enforce standards and for the PCC to be renamed the “Press Complaints and Standards Board” to reflect it’s enhanced power.»
Superinjunctions inquiry to start work next month
Superinjunctions are to be examined by a powerful committee of judges and lawyers, it was announced today, after months of speculation about the impact of the legal restrictions on press freedom. [...] Superinjunctions have been blamed for silencing the press partly because of the cost of attempting to have them overturned. There is currently no information about the extent to which they have been used against the media, although a series of high-profile cases, including the Guardian's attempt to report about the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast involving the oil trading company Trafigura, led to concern about their use.
Although the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, spoke out against the use of superinjunctions last year, some judges have been sceptical about the extent to which measures are being used. Last month the specialist high court judge Mr Justice Eady, who has presided over many of the most high-profile media cases, said he had never heard the term superinjunction until the measures imposed on the Guardian were questioned in parliament.
"I had never heard the term 'superinjunction' until it was mentioned in parliament," Eady said, speaking at City University. "I was not conscious I had ever granted one, but I might have." The lack of awareness of superinjunctions is one of the factors prompting the committee to investigate, experts say. more in the Guardian
Related here "Judicial committee to examine super-injunctions"
Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, has established a committee of lawyers from newspaper groups, leading London firms and members of the judiciary to examine the use of so called "super-injunctions" to gag the press.
The Judiciary of England and Wales said this morning the move had been prompted by a published in February by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee which was highly critical of the use of injunctions which prevented reporting of a story and of the existence of the injunction itself.
Oil company Trafigura and its law firm Carter-Ruck caused public outcry in October when it emerged they had unsuccessfully attempted to use a wide-ranging gagging order to prevent The Guardian reporting a Parliamentary question relating to the oil firm.
The new committee, which will be chaired by the Master of the Rolls, includes Marcus Partington, group legal director of Trinity Mirror, and Gillian Phillips, director of Guardian News and Media editorial legal services, alongside figures from law firms which have made use of the injunctions such as Carter-Ruck and Schillings.
The newly-established committee, which will meet for the first time on 4 May, follows justice secretary Jack Straw launching a consultation last year with lawyers from major newspapers over super-injunctions following the row over Carter Ruck using an injunction to apparently stop The Guardian from reporting a question asked in the House of Commons about the law firm Trafigura.
FOI scope to be extended from next year
The Freedom of Information Act will be extended to cover four more bodies from next year. Justice Minister Michael Wills announced last week that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) [Vice President Matt Baggott who worked with Leicestershire Police on the Madeleine Case, the same Police who still has a link to the former arguidos website and on-line shop] and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) will be opened up to greater public scrutiny. [...] more in Press Gazzette