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CMS press standards, privacy and libel report welcomed

25 February 2010

The NUJ has described the Press standards, privacy and libel report as the most sweeping investigation of press standards and related issues carried out by parliament this century. The NUJ has welcomed most of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee report's recommendations.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The NUJ broadly welcomes proposals to change the costs regime for libel. In particular, we welcome recommendations to place a limitation period for actions on internet publications and proposals to bring Britain's libel laws more in line with modern global practice, removing from us the embarrassment of being the world's libel tourism capital."

Professor Chris Frost, who chairs the union's Ethics Council, said:

"This is a detailed and thoughtful report that should feed debate within the industry for some time. Whilst we have concerns over some issues, there is much to be welcomed, and much that is long over-due.
"We are pleased the committee has agreed that a privacy law would not be helpful at present and that the present system should be allowed to continue."

It was in the area of press standards, and particularly the Press Complaints Commission, that the committee had the most to recommend.

Chris Frost said:

"We agree with the committee that self-regulation is the right way to defend press freedom yet provide the public with an outlet for complaints. But, like the committee, we have long had specific criticism of the PCC. We especially welcome the proposal to make press standards a stronger remit of the PCC's work.
"The NUJ warned the Press Standards Board of Finance when it set up the PCC that a body that took complaints only and was not directly concerned with press standards and media freedom would be failing the industry and the public.
"We welcome proposals to fine newspapers that deliberately and recklessly breach the PCC's code. We also agree that there should be some form of incentive for publications to pay their dues to the PCC. Placing of apologies and corrections also needs to be more formalised.
"We welcome the proposal to include journalists and lay members on the code committee. However, as the committee has again proposed that the PCC code should be inserted into our members' contracts of employment, we feel it is vital that our members receive the protection of some sort of conscience clause written into that code to protect the journalist from undue editorial pressure.
"The committee itself identified how the News of the World was prepared to allow Clive Goodman to become the sole scapegoat for the phone-tapping scandal; we would want to ensure no NUJ member was put in that position."

Tags: , cms select committee, ethics, pcc, press freedom, libel, privacy, regulation, conscience clause, quality journalism, news of the world, phone hacking, parliament uk