‘PCC-replacement membership should be tied to ad rates’

A cross-party committee of MPs has proposed a kitemark system to denote publishers and bloggers are members of the new press regulator replacing the Press Complaints Commission, with non-kitemarked publications penalised by brands paying less to advertise with them.

Newspapers

The symbol of “quality” and “standards” could be tied into advertising rates, compelling national newspaper publishers and bloggers – some of which obtain 50% of their income through advertising – to join the new press watchdog, according to a report published today from the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions.

The Press Complaints Commission is to close this year after failing to recover the reputation it lost when it decided not to fully investigate the phone hacking allegations at the News of the World.

The report says that it is “essential” that the membership of the reformed regulator extends to all newspaper publishers – meaning it would be no longer possible for a publisher such as Northern & Shell, which withdrew its titles from the PCC last year, to opt out.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale says: “The PCC’s successor must have teeth; it must be truly independent of the industry; it must incorporate all major news publishers.”

The recommendations for the new regulator also included having the power to fine newspapers, playing a greater role in settling disputes and being able to determine the positioning and size of printed apologies.

Other benefits to encourage voluntarily signing up to the regulator and the kitemark system could include analyses from the Audit Bureau of the Circulations only being available to members. Non-members could also be barred from gaining other privileged access to information such as membership to the parliamentary lobby or government press accreditation.

Elsewhere, the report said that search engines such as Google should actively filter its search results and censor content in breach of an individual’s privacy or that was in contempt of court. Any internet companies failing to take action would be punished by Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

Such a move could also gag social networks such as Twitter, which last year hosted tens of thousands of tweets about Ryan Giggs’ injunction and injunctions other celebrities had allegedly taken out to protect their reputation.

The Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions was founded last year by Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate the fine line between privacy and public interest. The report will help influence the formation of a new press regulator and any government-led amendments to current privacy laws.

The report concluded that additional laws to clarify the right to privacy were not “necessary or desirable”.

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