The dissolution of the PCC

 by Martin Belam, 9 March 2012

I’ve not written much on this blog in recent months on media regulation, which used to be one of the recurring themes. It has seemed to me that whilst the Leveson inquiry and various police operations related to newspapers are ongoing, it is safer, on the personal blog of someone who works at a news organisation, to say nothing. I can’t, however, let the dissolution of the PCC pass without comment.

It was back in 2009 that I wrote “Let’s have a PCC for the 21st century” and my case study of the PCC obstructing my ability to complain.

Finer legal and journalistic minds than mine will be working out how to set up a system, but for me, it needs to address two key flaws in the way that the PCC operated.

Firstly, the PCC never got to grips with the digital reality of publishing. Any new body needs to have firm and clear policies and guidance for user-generated content, web only content from otherwise print-based organisations, social media content, and video and audio. It also needs to set out guidelines for how best to deal with corrections and clarifications online, and the digital deletion of inaccurate content.

Secondly, the PCC did not serve the newspaper audience. It served the people in the newspapers. They have always talked of their role as behind-the-scenes mediators, but it was incredibly difficult to make a complaint as a member of the public. That simply isn’t the case with television, radio and advertising, and it shouldn’t be the case with news organisations.

I’ve no wish to see over-bearing regulation of news by the state. We should cherish having a free press with a diversity of voices and business models. But equally, I can’t say that I am sorry that the PCC is going. It simply wasn’t up to the job.

Disclaimer: Please note this is personal blog. The views expressed are my own, and do not reflect the views of Guardian News and Media Limited, or any current or former employers or clients. Read my blogging principles.

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