So the Press Complaints Commission today have raised the flag of independence in the face of attempts by politicians on all sides of the house to throw the body in the pit of obsolescence. Their failure to take the recalcitrant News of the World to task has been highlighted by all three main party leaders and tacitly by the PCC itself.
But the defence is head-scratchingly poor: “The government cannot simply order the replacement of the PCC, because it is an independent organisation” screamed a statement by the PCC. In PR terms, that is a raspberry to due process and the workings of true regulators like Ofcom and Ofgem. It is the rhetorical equivalent of double jeopardy: both have admitted something is amiss but sidestep any repercussions due to a technicality.
The mildly condescending nature of public figures who, in the wake of the rapid-fire News of the World revelations were desperately slinging turd-shaped balls of blame at one another to see what would stick in the mistaken belief that the public have a limited portion of disdain to dish out. We don’t. My own personal list grows each day. But they also fail to realise that their sins are separate and can’t be tossed like a mountain lion into the unsuspecting arms of the other. The Government (both past and present) were drawn to the light of Murdoch’s empire and found him a comfortable bedfellow (I bet his hugs are AMAZING) blurring the lines between media and politicians. The PCC on the other hand were just crap; whether it was by design or major oversight they still allowed this to happen. The idea that any industry can self-regulate brings a chuckle, but when that industry is responsible for access to information does the giggle turn to spasms of laughter.
So where can the PCC turn now? Well, at the moment, they rely on the support of the constituent members but like the Express Group has shown, any member can leave the Commission by not paying its dues . This can pave the way for the creation of a new regulatory body with more stringent powers and less of a conflict of interest when investigating complaints. So if the newspapers are genuinely serious about learning from the mistakes of this whole debacle then they will have to back their words with actions, which may just be a first.