Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport First Special Report

Appendix 1 - Reply from the Government

1. The Government thanks the Committee for its report on self-regulation. The industry benefits enormously from this type of Parliamentary scrutiny periodically, as it serves to air issues of concern, and helps to prevent complacency in the self-regulatory process.

2. We certainly agree the report's over-arching conclusion—that self-regulation of the press should be maintained. We further agree that there is no case for statutory regulation and that a free press is a hallmark of our democracy.

3. For these reasons, it is entirely appropriate that the Committee's recommendations are directed to the industry and its own regulator, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

4. The key issues for this inquiry were the events which led to the imprisonment of the News of the World reporter, Clive Goodman, for his part in tapping telephone messages. The PCC has already made it clear that it deplored such behaviour. Not only did the News of the World act against the law, but it also breached the Code of Practice overseen by the PCC. After the Committee completed its inquiry, the PCC also concluded its own investigation and published detailed new guidelines for editors on subterfuge and newsgathering. These guidelines make a number of the changes as recommended by the Committee and introduced a number of additional measures. Key changes are that:

Contracts between the press and external contributors or service providers should contain explicit requirements to abide by the PCC's Code of Practice and the Data Protection Act;

Staff contracts should contain reference to the need to abide by the Code of Practice and the Data Protection Act;

The press should review regularly their procedures and training in the Data

Protection Act and other privacy-related matters, including the need for stringent audits of cash payments.

5. We believe that the implementation of these measures will do much to bolster public confidence in the way information for stories is gathered.

6. We note the Committee's views on the issue of custodial sentences for offences under section 55 of the Data Protection Act.

7. The Committee's recommendations did not seek to intervene in any way in what a newspaper or magazine might choose to publish, but looked at the way in which information is gathered. This is an area of legitimate public concern. If self-regulation is to continue to be supported by the public, then the industry itself must remain vigilant about ensuring that it gathers its information in an ethical way.

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Prepared 11 October 2007