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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 21:39 GMT
Editor urges press watchdog changes
British newspapers
Newspaper regulations are again in the spotlight
A national newspaper editor has said the UK's press watchdog needs an independent ombudsman to act as "court of appeal" to boost public confidence.

Simon Kelner, editor of the Independent, said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) needed to be made "less cosy" and given "more teeth".

He told the Commons select committee the commission should also be more pro-active, investigating "name and shame" campaigns and reporting on asylum.

MPs on the committee heard from Mr Kelner as part of their inquiry into privacy and media intrusion.


The editor said he opposed the introduction of a privacy law, which he argued would only be available in practice to the rich and famous.

But he did believe there could be a press ombudsman, with the PCC put within the remit of new media regulator Ofcom.

"I think there are real problems with the PCC and public confidence in the PCC," he said.

Simon Kelner
Kelner: Press must overcome public trust problems
"I think it is entirely right that there should be a court of appeal, because there is not a lot of transparency in the PCC.

"I think if we want to build public trust in our industry, there has to be greater transparency in the PCC and greater accountability.

"To have an ombudsman who acts as the court of appeal and scrutineer of a PCC judgment - I don't see a downside for our industry. I only see an upside.

"It could add a level of trust to people's perception of our industry.

"It can be seen as hypocritical of the newspaper industry to fight to the last for self-regulation when we spend all our time pressing for more scrutiny and regulation of other trades and professions."

Star reporting

Mr Kelner called for the PCC to launch inquiries itself, rather than acting only on complaints.

He said he would have liked the commission to look at recent cases involving television stars John Leslie, Matthew Kelly and Michael Barrymore.

They were named in relation to serious allegations without police charging them with any offence.

But he added: "I'm not saying the PCC is absolutely useless.

"With some real thought and effort put into reconstructing it in some way that gives it more transparency and teeth and makes it less cosy ... there is every reason why a form of the PCC could work very well."

The MPs committee also heard from Mike Jempson, from the PressWise charity, which helps people who believe the media have been unfair to them.

Mr Jempson said ending "chequebook journalism", where people were paid for stories, would improve trust in the British press.

He accused the PCC of acting as a "fig leaf" for newspapers.

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