06 December 2007

Self regulation proves a success

Ian Beales picture

The British press has moved from the last chance saloon to the coffee lounge of public affirmation, journalism students at the University of Sheffield were told.

Ian Beales, former editor of the Western Daily Press, said the Press Complaints Commission had been such a success since its formation in 1991 that newspapers and magazines no longer faced the threat of government-imposed statutory regulation.

“A free press lives by having a compact with readers and readers have got to trust you,” he told the latest of a series of guest lectures organised by the university’s department of journalism studies.

As code secretary of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), Ian Beales helped to draw up the code of practice that is now at the heart of press self-regulation. He explained that the PCC aims for conciliation where possible, but he also discussed a series of thorny ethical problems such as: when is a private place not private and when is a public place not public?

“The code provides an ethical compass for editors to take their own decisions,” he said. “There is a spirit to the code that you would not get with a statutory one.”