The Press Complaints Commission and journalism in the twenty-first century: successes, failures and journalistic ethics

Donna Smith (Open University, UK)

It is essential that the system of press regulation in the UK firmly stands up to political, public and media scrutiny. If it does not, the political and democratic process will suffer. Indeed, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), as the intermediary between the press and the public, has an essential role to play in terms of the democratic process. The PCC, a self-regulatory body, has a central place in the (re)structuring of news; as a formal institution, it is well-placed to counter unethical journalism and thus ensure its proper function. However, the PCC as it stands does not stand up to strong scrutiny. Indeed, in terms of both its structure and its Code there are substantial conflicts of interest, such as the fact that the newspaper industry funds the PCC, and within its Code there is a conflict between what should be considered private and what should be considered public. Certainly, in relation to privacy it is clear that if one believes the PCC’s public interest criteria to be acceptable, then the press often willingly disregards these criteria. Through a detailed analysis of the PCC’s structure and content and relevant case studies (paying particular attention to privacy), this paper will examine the PCC in the twenty-first century in terms of its successes and failures, and will explore the ethics of (self)regulation, alternatives to the present system, and the impact of citizen journalism on self-regulation.

Timing - Friday - Panel Session C2
Download the full paper - Donna Smith.doc



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