The different forms of media regulation namely the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), Office of Communications (OFCOM) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) carry varying levels of influence upon the media; cases and adjudications indicate the levels of influence upon these regulators. The advantages and disadvantages of self-regulation will also be considered within this discussion.
Regulation of the media in Britain can be by statute, industry self-regulation or co-regulation. ‘Quangos’ (quasi autonomous non-government organisations) are public bodies that can also provide specialist expertise and are quickly able to resolve complaints. However, Quangos obligate a lack of sanctions; a high expenditure and a lack of democratic accountability.
The PCC is a self-regulatory body who handle public complaints against the print press and online editors. They enforce the Editor’s code of practise and mediate or adjudicate to resolve complaints. The PCC received over 22,000 complaints about Jan Moir’s piece written in the Daily Mail about the death of Stephen Gately. They launched an investigation to assess if the article had breached clauses 1 (accuracy), 5 (intrusion into grief and shock) and 12 (discrimination) of the editor’s code of practise. The complaint was not upheld firstly, because Moir had written a comment piece, not a precise account of what happened. Secondly, the fact that the piece was written a day before Gately’s funeral was irrelevant and Moir should not be denied freedom to express her opinion. Lastly, the issue of the article being homophobic did not fall under the remit of the code. The decision caused a lot of controversy and criticisms about the PCC were expressed, (single quotes)“[a] brave decision that will win the commission few friends and many enemies at a time when its future is under close scrutiny from parliament, the blogosphere and even the press itself.”Therefore, this provocative verdict shows that the PCC promotes freedom of the press and has a positive influence upon the print press as they may no longer feel restricted to express their opinion.
The Information Commissioner published a report on phone hacking by the press and uncovered evidence of media intrusion into people’s privacy.Then in January 2007, the News of the World’s (NOW) Royal editor Clive Goodman was found guilty of phone hacking under section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). After various replacements for the position of editor for NOW, the PCC then launched an inquiry into phone hacking but found no breaches of clause 10 of the editor’s code of practise. Subsequently, in July 2009, The Guardian reported on the phone hacking and subterfuge going on at NOW. So (delete) in spite of the PCC amending clause 10 of the code of practise and proposing legislation (RIPA) as a result of their first inquiry, allegations of phone hacking were still being made. In 2009, the PCC launched another investigation and once again, found nothing. Consequently, criticisms of the self-regulatory body followed, with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger accusing the PCC of being “toothless” and the investigation being “worse than a whitewash.”Geoffrey Robertson also commented that, “the most satisfactory reform of the PCC would be its abolition.” The Leveson Inquiry then launched in November 2011 and revealed mistakes and errors of investigations carried out by the PCC as well as making recommendations on the future of the PCC.
The former director of the PCC told the Leveson Inquiry that the organisation “is not a regulator and merely a complaints body”and Baroness Hollins also commented that the PCC “failed to stop incredibly intrusive reporting of the tragedy despite being asked to intervene.”However, Baroness Buscombe defended the self-regulatory body by suggesting, “Many found it easier to attack the PCC than the press.” The Leveson Inquiry then went on to announce the abolition of...