IS the Press Complaints Commission a tough regulator of the press, or a paper tiger?
That was one of the themes at yesterday’s meeting in Southampton where members of the public were able to meet members of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) as they visited the city to stage an open day.
Representation of minorities, derogatory language aimed at young people, the wording of headlines and the placing of apologies, were other issues raised by the audience at Southampton City Art Gallery.
Hosting the event was the chairman of the PCC Baroness Peta Buscombe, who led a lively debate that saw members of the audience challenge why the PCC did not have more powers and what likelihood there was of some media owners paying attention to the Commission’s verdicts of complaints.
Baroness Buscombe spoke of how the PCC’s Code of Practice was built into the contracts of most journalists and editors in the country and in the 20 years the Commission had existed that no editor had declined to publish a verdict.
She revealed that the Commission had dealt with 1,700 complaints in the previous 12 months and issued weekly Desist Notices to newspapers and magazines asking them to prevent publication of information it was felt would be harmful or not in the public interest.
Also on the panel were PCC Director Stephen Abell and Commission member Simon Sapper from the Communication Workers’ Union as well as Southern Daily Echo editor Ian Murray.
Audience member Colin Crawley from West End in Southampton asked the panel whether readers had the right to know the political views of pundits who commented on topical issues.
Anver Jeevanjee asked if more could be done to tone down derogatory language when referring to some groups, including young people who were too often referred to as “yobs”.
Alan Kebbell asked if more could be done to protect the identities of children involved in sex abuse cases going through the court.
After the meeting, Daily Echo editor Ian Murray said that he was delighted so many people had turned out in such bad weather.
“The depth of the questions revealed an understandable concern over the responsibilities of a free press and the strength of the PCC to ensure it acts responsibly,” he added.