Lord David Hunt, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, has highlighted his desire that the new press regulation body be funded by the publishing industry and not receive any public funding, nor does he wish it to offer any advertising incentive initially.
Speaking at the PPA annual conference today, Lord Hunt, who is leading the drive to establish a new body to regulate the British press, was asked whether he could see tax money spent to fund the new organisation.
“I wouldn’t want to see the taxpayer pay for it,” he responded. “As soon as you start using public money, there is a whole new level of public scrutiny. I believe that this has to be a body built on public consensus, and form an industry structure that commands the confidence of parliament and the public.”
Lord Hunt, who was missing the opening of Parliament for the first time in 35 years in order to attend the conference, also revealed that he had come from a meeting with John Whittingdale, chairman of the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, who had proposed that advertisers sign up to commit to only spend in publications that adhere to the new body’s regulations. He said that had also held talks with the Advertising Authority over this proposal, but added that he would not wish to see an advertising incentive initially introduced, but be something the industry was seen to do independently.
“It doesn’t need VAT incentives, but if they form part of the package then no one could be more delighted,” he also said of the proposal.
He did, however, echo Whittingdale’s call for the body to be one ‘with teeth’ and revealed that publications breaching the code would face financial penalties, which would increase every time a publication was found to be in breach.
As to the Editor’s Code, he said that he had received criticism of the code from some families heavily targeted by the press, including the McCanns, the Watsons and Chris Geoffrey, but did not say exactly what they had complained about.
He also appealed to an audience of magazine publishers and editors to work with him in establishing a new body that he claimed was anticipated by the rest of Europe as well as the UK industry.