Another scalp has been claimed in the phone hacking scandal.
The Press Complaints Commission, formerly headed by retired ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, has rightly been axed.
To the end this hopeless quango kept defending itself. When Ed Miliband described it as a “toothless poodle” today they responded by calling him “ignorant.” This morning the Prime Minister finally did the decent thing and closed down this ragbag of an organisation promising to replace it with a “new system that is truly independent of government and press.”
For years many have criticised the PCC for being neither genuinely independent of editors, nor genuinely representative of the expectations of the public. This is a body that was headed by the “kings and queens of quangos” and headed by spineless politically ambitious appointees. It sat meekly on the sidelines and protected the very people it should have been regulating.
John Prescott and Jack Straw, two politicians I previously had little respect for, were especially vocal in attacking this impartiality as far back as 2005 when the certain former ambassador wrote a most inappropriate book full of the very sort of stuff he was meant to be protecting the public from. Prescott stated: “I am alarmed that you are perfectly happy to profit from tittle-tattle, betraying confidences and by character assassination” before pointing out that a significant proportion of the serialisation rights of DC Confidential were paid to a charity run by Meyer’s wife and from which she was a direct beneficiary.
Christopher Meyer in the PCC boardroom
Whilst Meyer was head he didn’t take action about allegations about phone hacking. Frankly, he didn’t send out the right message and as a result a mess that could have been dealt with long ago has morphed into a calamity. A 2007 PCC report stated:
“The Commission condemns breaches of the DPA – or any law – when there are no grounds in the public interest for committing them. However, it has said before that it does not consider that the case for stronger penalties has been made out. Jailing – or threatening to jail – journalists for gathering information in the course of their professional duties is not a step to be taken lightly, and would send out a worrying message about the status of press freedom in the United Kingdom.”
It was sad to see the demise of the News of the World yesterday as it was genuinely good at naming and shaming. The PCC’s loss will not be similarly mourned. It couldn’t have organised a beer swigging session in a brewery let alone correct the mistakes of the press. Good riddance.
Read Prescott’s call for Meyer’s resignation in the 21st November 2005 edition of The Guardian at http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/nov/21/uk.media
Read The Press Complaints Commission’s response to Ed Miliband’s speech: http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NzI0NQ==
Read The Press Complaints Commission’s response to the Prime Minister: http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NzI0Ng==