Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Dame Elizabeth Neville, Chairman, The Media Advisory Group, Association of Chief Police Officers

  I am writing to you in connection with the Committee's current enquiry into privacy and media intrusion. Although I am aware the deadline for formal written evidence has passed, I would like to draw the Committee's attention to the position of news agencies, which I hope members will be able to take into account.

  New agencies often play a significant part in disseminating information about individuals, particularly those who have been victims or witnesses of crime or a major incident. They provide material not just to local newspapers and broadcasters. who in many cases will have acquired some detail directly, but on occasion to regional and national media, thus immediately giving a story a much wider audience than otherwise might have been the case. When the aftermath, for example, of a serious crime generates national media coverage, the pressures on individual victims and their families already traumatised by their experience become intense. The effects of this are a source of major concern to police in the course of their investigations and I believe to responsible editors and broadcasters.

  Agencies are however not subject to the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice. Police experience suggests that some news agencies do not therefore feel subject to the same constraints as newspaper editors and broadcasters. On occasion their activity results in violations of privacy and the ultimate publication of a version of events by media who are far removed from where the people concerned live and with an emphasis which lacks a necessary appreciation of the impact on individual and communities.

  It is not our intention to suggest any additional constraints on media already governed by the PCC's Code of Practice but to propose the Code's extension to news agencies. We feel such a move would help tackle some instances of intrusion into the lives of private individuals, often in circumstances where they are less able to deal with it.

  I hope this proposal is one the Committee will be able to consider and I apologise for not putting it to the members of the Committee within your formal time scale.

4 April 2003

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