Press standard, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 340-359)


24 MARCH 2009

  Chairman: Good morning, for the second part of this morning's session could I welcome the Chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance Tim Bowdler; the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission Sir Christopher Meyer; and the Director Tim Toulmin. Janet Anderson.

  Q340 Janet Anderson: Thank you Chairman. Welcome, gentlemen. The PCC of course was set up in 1991 following a report by Sir David Calcutt into press regulation and it was his recommendation that there be a non-statutory body to regulate the press but that if it was not effective then there ought to be statutory regulation, and in fact in 1993 he went on to recommend that. Could you perhaps tell us what you do to make sure that self-regulation guarantees the freedom of the press and to make sure that the PCC retains credibility in what it does?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: The essential thing, if the question is addressed to me, is that we should exist in a state of permanent evolution, that is to say never to be satisfied with the service that we deliver and always seek to improve it. I am coming towards the end of my time now, I will be gone a week today, and I look back to 2003 when I first became chairman and we put in a set of reforms that covered a very wide area of PCC activity. You could say that the last six years have been a story of embedding and improving those changes, which in turn have led to other changes. The most important thing that we have to have in mind is that above all else we provide a public service and that this public service must be consistently and continuously improved by enhancing the independence of the PCC, by enhancing its proactivity, by enhancing the speed and good judgment and the way in which we react to complaints, by enhancing our pre-publication activities, which has been a growth area over the last few years, by ensuring that when we do negotiate remedies for people, apologies, corrections and so forth they really do appear in newspapers and magazines with due prominence and by ensuring that the Code of Practice is revised as frequently as is necessary. One of the improvements we introduced five years ago was to ensure that the Code Committee met regularly every year to consider changes instead of meeting ad hoc, and to also be certain—maybe not ahead of the curve but at least on the crest of the wave—of the huge technological changes that were taking place in the industry, which now means stuff which is online. As we have just announced, last year as in 2007, which was the first such time, we are now taking more complaints about online editions of newspapers and magazines than we are print. To sum it up, this is like painting the Forth Bridge; you cannot rest at any time. You are satisfied that you have achieved this or you have achieved that but it is simply a staging post to doing better. I believe today as firmly as I believed in 2003 that where newspapers and magazines are concerned, be they in print or online, self-regulation is the only way by which one can satisfactorily reconcile freedom of expression, freedom of the press on the one hand, with responsibility and respect towards readers and viewers on the other now at the beginning of the 21st century. That is where I am coming from.

  Q341  Janet Anderson: Thank you. If that is the case and you think the PCC is doing a good job and a credible job and everyone recognises that, why is it that as the journalists from whom we have just taken evidence have told us people increasingly resort to the courts instead?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: I believe that is false and it is revealed by the statistics which we have just announced in our annual review of 2008. Leave aside the fact that we hit an all-time record in people who came to us for help, for remedy, on matters of privacy where the courts issue focuses. On matters of privacy we increased by an astonishing 35% the number of rulings we issued. Now it is absolutely the case that more privacy or confidence issues are coming to the courts because the judges are applying the Human Rights Act—you would expect that to happen—but if you look in comparison at the number of cases that come to the courts with the vast number of cases that come to us, in their hundreds, it is impossible to argue as some people do (I do not know why) that people are bypassing the PCC for the courts. There is always going to be a time for the courts and a time for the PCC and as sure as hell it is a time for the PCC where privacy is concerned, and the proof of the pudding is in the statistics.

  Q342  Janet Anderson: But at the end of the day surely all you can do is try and get an apology where you think an apology is appropriate. Do you think that is sufficient deterrent to prevent newspapers publishing inaccurate information?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: You are never going to get perfection in the world of journalism any more than you will in any other area of activity in society, but I am quite convinced that the range of remedies and penalties that we have at our disposal are sufficient to maintain generally high standards in the industry. We are never going to stop excess, we are never going to stop mistakes, we are never going to stop journalists who do something stupid or even malevolent, but what we can do is provide a regime that curbs all the worst excesses and really serves as a deterrent to editors and really provides a panoply of remedies to people who come to us for help. It is not just a question of apologies and corrections and things like that, it is the tagging of archives so that the story does not get repeated again five years hence, it is the ability within 24 hours—or less even—where if something goes wrong online they have it taken down, taken off the web archive—this is increasingly a growth area which this Committee recognised in its report in 2007—and our ability to intervene and, I have to say actually, our ambition to intervene before something becomes a problem; there is a lot of stuff that we have stopped from happening, and by definition it is quite hard for us to publicise that but it is a growth area in our work. I am satisfied (a) with the range of remedies and (b) with the range of deterrents that we have at our disposal. If we were, say, as a lot of our critics argue, to go to a regime of fines, some kind of fining system for editors who step out of line, I genuinely believe and I could elaborate on this that that would serve as no greater deterrent to bad behaviour and actually would impede seriously the effective and speedy operation of the self-regulatory system.

  Q343  Janet Anderson: We have taken quite a lot of evidence about the case of the McCanns, including from Madeleine's father Gerry McCann. In its submission to this inquiry the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) actually said: "It is likely that the PCC would not have upheld complaints from the McCanns since it is arguable whether there is direct evidence that the articles concerned breached the PCC Code of Practice, which does not prevent speculation." We understand that the McCanns were actually advised by their legal advisers that to go down the PCC route was not the most effective, although they did eventually successfully sue the Express.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: The lawyers would say that, would they not? Having read Mr Tudor's evidence to you—I think he was there with Gerry McCann—it was a classic kind of Carter Ruck operation, a sort of tendentious onslaught on the PCC, because one has to say there are a number of law firms in London who specialise in media matters who regard us as their sworn enemies, probably because we do the job as well as they do but we do it for free and we can provide a degree of discretion which protects the complainant in a way that open exposure in court does not. Here I would mention the case of Max Mosley which maybe you will want to discuss. In the matter of the McCanns—I am not aware of this NUJ submission and I do not really understand what it is driving at there—one has to say this in brief, and I come back to my first point: there is a time for the courts and there is a time for the PCC; the notion that the courts and the PCC are in a competition as some kind of zero sum game is absolutely ludicrous. The PCC is never going to eliminate the courts and I sure as hell hope that the judges do not ever eliminate the PCC; we act in a complementary way. What I said to Gerry McCann when I first him was this is what the PCC can do for you, this is how we can help. If you want damages, if it comes to that, we do not do money, the courts do money, so you are going to have to make a choice. It seems to me perfectly normal that if you feel that you are defamed or libelled and you want damages for that, punitive damages for that, you obviously go to court, but there is a whole range of other things that we could have done and could do for the McCanns which are of a quite different nature. The McCanns are an interesting case of people who chose both ways; they went to the courts on the matter of defamation and they came to us for the protection of their children and their family from the media scrums when they returned to the United Kingdom. It seems to me a perfectly normal way of proceeding.

  Q344  Philip Davies: Just on the issue of credibility, I understand the point you make is a good one, that if people want damages then they are going to have to go through the court system, but in terms of the credibility it seems that Gerry McCann said that his beef with the PCC was that the "editor of a paper which had so flagrantly libelled us with the most devastating stories could hold a position on the board of the PCC." That was his beef. Max Mosley's beef was that "they have no power" and that it was "very much a creature of the press". In terms of credibility would you accept that those kinds of feelings about the PCC are quite widespread, although nothing to do with whether somebody wants damages or not, they are actually just questioning how effective the PCC is in any event?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: I must say it would be a desperate man who measured the quality of the PCC's service by something that Max Mosley may have said. Where the McCanns are concerned the editor of the Daily Express, after the settlement was announced on 19 March last year, played no further part in the proceedings of the PCC and it was in May that he was replaced by Peter Wright. Max Mosley—I read what he had to say. It was absolutely predictable stuff, probably ventriloquised by Carter Ruck, all the usual tired, pitiful stuff about limp wrists and—what was his stupid thing, arranging a piss-up in a brewery, some worn-out metaphor that he used. I really have no regard to what he had to say about the PCC.

  Q345  Philip Davies: In terms of credibility we just heard how the Daily Mirror shy away from taking on Roman Abramovich, even it if does not seem to be libellous, because he threatens litigation and they shy away from it. It is inconceivable that the Daily Mirror would shy away if Roman Abramovich threatened to go to the PCC, is it not? I mean, "If you print this I am going to go to the PCC" is hardly likely to stop a paper launching in with both barrels, is it?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: I know a lot of papers that have precisely done that. Roman Abramovich is probably not typical of most citizens in the United Kingdom so it is not an ideal benchmark for discussing this issue. If you are talking about very rich people going to court on the basis of contingency fee arrangements, for example, we are into a wholly different area of debate—you have probably had this already with various journalists who have been on the stand. I can tell you that when an editor be he (or she) national or regional or local knows that there is a possibility first of all of a PCC investigation, secondly of a negative adjudication—which in fact means naming and shaming—in his or her own newspaper in terms over which they have no control whatsoever you can hear the screams from one end of the United Kingdom to the other. Believe you me, it works.

  Q346  Philip Davies: One final question: is there a possibility that the PCC could be or has been used as a sort of stalking horse for legal action so that somebody makes a complaint to the PCC to try and test out how good a case they have got, and if it seems that the PCC are very sympathetic to what they are saying they then move on to legal action. If so, might that threaten the newspapers from fully co-operating because they fear the wider consequences of admitting that they have made a mistake?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: As a general statement I would say that I have had very little evidence over the last six years of any newspaper or magazine not co-operating with us. I remember when I became chairman in 2003 there was a great anxiety then—and I cannot remember why it was particularly acute at the time—that people, particularly those who use solicitors to come to the PCC which, as you know, is not necessary, you do not need to pay a penny to come to the PCC, would use judgments made by the PCC as a springboard for legal action. That fear subsided after that because we did not really see very many if any examples of it. There must have been one or two over the last few years and it is a fear that is there, but it is not rampant—I think I am right in saying that.

  Mr Toulmin: It certainly is in the back of some newspapers' minds that because the law, particularly on privacy, is developing and is covering similar areas to our Code of Practice, it is a theoretical possibility. What is interesting though is that most people choose to come to the PCC on privacy and that is the end of the matter, so we probably deal with 100 times more privacy cases than the courts. Of course the courts get the attention because it is a huge adversarial punch-up in the High Court which everyone loves the drama of—look at Max Mosley, but that is all you can look at, Max Mosley, for the whole of last year whilst we were dealing with perhaps nearly 400 privacy cases discreetly, and I do not think any of those went on to sue on the back of it and if they did then they were very few and far between.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: What Tim has just said has set off a train of thought; could I just add one thing and it is, Mr Davies, partly an answer to your question. The great deterrent on a privacy case from springboarding, say, out of the PCC into the courts is because if you are concerned that some intimate detail of your private life has been exposed in the newspaper and the PCC finds in your favour, so you think "Right, I am going to go to court now and try and get damages" the very sin of which you were complaining, and for which you may have got a remedy at the PCC discreetly, is then thrown into open court where every nook and cranny and crevice—almost literally in Mr Mosley's case—is then exposed to the public gaze over and over as prosecution and defence throw the shaved buttocks backwards and forwards across the courtroom. That is a great deterrent on a matter of privacy or confidentiality against going out of the PCC and into the courts. Long may that be the case.

  Q347  Alan Keen: We are getting into danger, because there have been attacks on the PCC for not being effective, of thinking that the PCC is not useful. This is the third inquiry I have been involved with on this Committee and I have been extremely impressed by all the staff at the PCC. It might be worth it if we gave Tim a couple of minutes to explain how the PCC works and where they do a lot of good which solicitors and legal people could not do, because we do not want to end up with this inquiry saying the PCC should be shoved to one side. You have a role and you do it very, very well; what is the best part of that role?

  Mr Toulmin: Building on my remarks earlier the best bit is the bit that does not get publicity and if you are trying to help people with their problems with privacy, with harassment from photographers and journalists, or with something that is intrusive or inaccurate online, all these people want is a very quick remedy that is going to stop the problem or prevent it from arising in the first place. When you came in to see us we gave you some examples of how that actually works in practice. We cannot take those out there and use them publicly because we are set up to protect people's privacy and so we do suffer from a comparison with what looks like a very robust court view of press standards. People come to us precisely because they know we are more discreet, so this is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and although it is a small team of people they are always on call, they have always got the contacts of the newspapers, the newspapers and their online publications take it seriously, we can always get through and get stuff changed, get stuff stopped the whole time. Your Committee shining a light on that work has been incredibly helpful for us in the past and you have obviously recognised it. That is not to say that corrections, apologies, tagging, preventing stuff from happening in the future and the naming and shaming element is not important as well of course.

  Q348  Alan Keen: Having said that, Sir Christopher said that the PCC is forever evolving, changing and improving. Somebody has already mentioned the fact that the editor of one of the papers who was in dispute was on the PCC, so looking at it from the eyes of the public outside it does seem wrong that editors are judging when really some of them are guilty, if not the week we are talking about then next week or the week before. That may be one issue, but what other issues, Sir Christopher, do you feel need to change at the PCC? How could you improve on what has been happening—you have had five years at it.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: A lot of it is an evolutionary answer because I do not believe that there needs to be any kind of radical departure in the way that the PCC operates. I really would like to take this opportunity publicly to pay tribute to Tim Toulmin who has been director of the PCC almost all the time that I have been chairman; he has been absolutely exemplary in leading a very small and highly motivated team to do an absolutely enormous amount of work, both preventative and in reaction to complaints. What I would like to see particularly—and this is quite a beef of mine—is I would like to see the industry itself give more publicity to the fact of our existence. It is much better now than it used to be six years ago; you can go online and you will see links to the PCC which people have put on their websites, sometimes on the home page and sometimes somewhere else. You will see in many print editions references to the PCC so that the reader knows that he or she, if they need a remedy, has got somewhere to go if they cannot get satisfaction from the editor or the publication itself. I would like to see much more of that because although the numbers we are handling at the moment are almost double what they were in 2003 we still, when we go round the country—and that is one of the things we have changed, we do not stay in London all the time, we are constantly on the road going around the country—we still find too many people who do not know about the services that we have to offer, how we can help. That is always going to be the case, I suppose, you cannot have perfect cover, but I think the industry could do more to advertise the services that we provide. After all, it is in their own interest.

  Q349  Alan Keen: Could I ask Tim Bowdler, you look at it from the outside; what do you think could be done to make the PCC service better?

  Mr Bowdler: I would agree with what Sir Christopher has just said. The industry does publicise the PCC and adjudications and so on, but it could be given more prominence and indeed Pressbof as the industry body or the funder of the PCC does encourage newspapers to take the PCC seriously and to give it the sort of prominence that would be helpful to it. In the end it is the individual publishers who will decide but certainly from my own point of view, having been chief executive of a company which owned more than 300 newspapers, we certainly took the PCC very seriously and I got to know of every complaint to the PCC and I certainly encouraged our editors to make sure that it was given the right prominence.

  Alan Keen: Tim, could I ask you another question? We have just had three very decent journalists in front of us, one who has just retired so years of experience, and the other two were very experienced also, and each of them said that the industry, the journalists and the quality and standards have deteriorated because of the pressures of finance. It is very, very sad. I do not buy Sunday newspapers any more because I do not believe a word of what is said on the front pages, for instance—people have known that for a long time, that I do not do Sunday papers, the big ones, "Source at Number 10", "Prominent Opposition spokesperson says ... "—we know they are made up so I do not even buy them. But we are not talking about that—

  Adam Price: The PCC will be there.

  Q350  Alan Keen: These journalists are under pressure because of the bad finance that the press and competition have got all over the place. Are you concerned about the pressures on decent journalists by people who are desperate because of finance, and what can be done about that, or are we just saying goodbye to print newspapers?

  Mr Bowdler: I would not take such a gloomy view of it. Certainly the pressures on the industry are intense. We have over the course of two years seen advertising—which in the case of a company like Johnston Press accounts for more than three-quarters of our revenue—go down by something in the region of 40% to 45% in the first eight weeks of this year alone and it was down by 36% year on year, so there is huge financial pressure, it extends across the industry and of course you have to couple that with the fact that we are selling fewer newspapers—copy sales are down so cover price revenues suffer in addition. We have seen across the industry now a fair amount of restructuring going on to take costs out of the business; the bulk of that is really to address the backroom efficiencies, whether it be in printing or pre-press production. I can speak directly of Johnston Press: we have been absolutely committed to the continued investment in content to ensure that it does not diminish in terms of the quality or quantity of the material which we publish. Inevitably there is always a compromise, or there are difficult choices to make and they get more difficult as the pressure increases, but I would not subscribe to the view that there has been a general downward trend in the quality and in fact the assessment of that is clearly subjective. I would suggest that actually the PCC through the Code of Practice has been instrumental in fact in many areas in improving the quality of journalism. I do not think it is enough to take one or two editorial views, you have to take a broader look at the entire output of the industry and not just a particular national newspaper or newspapers. You know, we are talking about an industry which publishes something like 1400 different newspapers.

  Q351  Adam Price: Sir Christopher, the Max Mosley quote that you were grasping after a moment ago was "Mafia in charge of the local police station".

  Sir Christopher Meyer: That was it.

  Q352  Adam Price: But as you said, the thought of Max Mosley cracking the whip in any context has unfortunate connotations. You mentioned the public humiliation or professional humiliation that arises really from an adjudicated complaint from the PCC. We know lots of examples of journalists and newspaper editors even who have lost their jobs effectively as a result of successful litigation against the newspaper; are there examples of journalists who have been demoted or sacked as a result of a PCC complaint?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: I cannot tell you that—although Tim may have some knowledge there—but I would be surprised if there have not been repercussions for the kind of sloppy or bad journalism that we have exposed and condemned.

  Mr Bowdler: Perhaps I could add to that because within Johnston Press I certainly have a number of examples where precisely what you describe has happened, both to the extent of disciplining a journalist and there are cases where we have dismissed a journalist through the results of the PCC inquiry.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: Mr Price, do not forget that one of our campaigns has been to have respect for the Code of Practice written into journalists' contracts, including editors as well, so if you breach the Code of Practice you are in fact breaching your own contract of employment. That is quite a salutary thing.

  Q353  Adam Price: You would accept that a PCC complaint surely does not cause the same level of trepidation that, say, a major libel case could in the case of defamation, it does not have the same effect of concentrating editors' minds, journalists' minds?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: This is oranges and apples or is it pears and oranges—I cannot remember what it is. Defamation and libel are a wholly different beast. You do not have the choice of coming to us for defamation and libel; it is a legal process, so it is a little unfair to compare that which is unique to the law with the kinds of things that we can do to act as regulator, punisher and deterrent. If I were an editor and I was faced with a defamation action, with contingency fee arrangements as they are currently constructed, I would be very worried, I would be very worried for my bottom line. If I was about to get whacked by a PCC adjudication which censured me in harsh terms, I would be worried about my professional reputation, so they are different things, but equally powerful? Certainly powerful.

  Mr Toulmin: May I just add to that? Actually I do speak to editors all the time and they absolutely hate it, they hate the thought that they are about to lose an adjudication and when they have lost it they really intensely dislike the public criticism that they have no control over. It is entirely down to the PCC what we say about them; they have signed up to this system, they put it in. If you compare and contrast the News of the World's treatment of the ruling against it in the Max Mosley case where they criticised the judge, they disagreed with it, the editor believed and continues to believe I think that the story was in the public interest, they have not accepted that. Shortly after that we handed down a ruling against that paper from Paul Burrell which the paper again did not like, but they accepted it. They printed our ruling in full, very prominently, they did not criticise the complainant as they had done with Max Mosley, they did not criticise the PCC. The system actually illustrates that newspapers do take the PCC seriously and they do not try and undermine it, which you cannot say for their attitude to the courts, and that works in the complainant's interest and the public's interest.

  Q354  Adam Price: On the issue of credibility of your processes has a newspaper proprietor or editor ever misled you knowingly or inadvertently as to the facts of a case that you were interested in?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: Tim, you are in the belly of the beast more than I am.

  Mr Toulmin: The only time that has ever arisen in my experience, which is lengthy—at the PCC now it goes back to 1996—and has been established in the public domain now involved the Mirror Group submission to us at the time of the initial inquiry into Piers Morgan's share dealings. We then reopened the matter and went to them for more information because it came out during the court case that there was a very particular reason why they did not let us know that in fact the total amount of shares in a particular case was higher than they had let us know about. That aside, which had very specific reasons behind it, they do not mislead us and if they did mislead us then there would be grounds, obviously, for serious disciplinary action I would have thought.

  Q355  Adam Price: Presumably you reprimanded them for allowing you to believe something that was not true.

  Mr Toulmin: Yes, we did, absolutely, and that is on our website. We said it was regrettable that there were reasons, they were flawed reasons, they did not do it to try and keep out of trouble because they did not manage to avoid being in trouble. They then sacked the journalist involved—which is an example of breaches of the Code leading to dismissal incidentally. We said that they had made the wrong decision, we did reprimand them and that is on our website.

  Q356  Chairman: You will be aware that there are still people, however, who believe that the PCC is basically a cosy arrangement run by the press for the press, and most recently of course we have had the Media Standards Trust, with whom you have crossed swords on their report. Do you accept that there is still a serious credibility problem in some sections for the PCC?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: It is much better than it used to be and we test this all the time; we test this with our own public opinion polls, we test this by using Ipsos MORI, we test this anecdotally when we go around the country, and I have to say that the kinds of things that used to be said back at the beginning of the decade are said with far less frequency nowadays. There is a constituency out there, largely to be found in London, to a degree to be found in the academic world—the way I would put it is there are none so deaf as those who do not want to hear—who simply are ideologically hostile to the PCC. Sometimes of course it is because editors are sitting on the Commission, albeit that they are the minority, some people do not like it because it is funded by the newspaper and magazine industry of the UK, some people do not like it simply because it is self-regulatory and they believe in some form of statutory regulation. There is, if you like, a hard core out there who will go on attacking the PCC, but we just have to live with it. They can be among the more articulate members of British society and they get a lot of space in the media in some of the newspapers and among the broadcasters—the broadcasters in particular are particularly snooty about the PCC—and then no one actually has the courage to say it out in public but there is a kind of suggestion that I am corrupt sitting one part of the week in Paul Dacre's pocket and the other part of the week in James Murdoch's pocket, so taking gold from them in order to run the thing in a corrupt way, which of course is absolutely grotesque and ludicrous. We just have to deal with it; it is out there, it is less than it used to be and part of our permanent campaign—it is why we go around the country—is to convince people that we are a credible organisation. The more we are used the more our reputation rises, and there is a necessary correlation in my view in the fact that we are seen more credibly and the fact that more people come to us. I do not think that this increase in numbers, to echo something that Tim has just said, is a reflection of declining standards. There are certain areas of worry, particularly online, but above all it is the impact of visibility and credibility. I have to say to you, Chairman, that pro rata today it looks like we will have a figure of near to 6000 by the end of this year, people who have come to us for help, and last year's figure of over 4500 was itself an historic record. There is a credibility case launched against us; it is without merit and without foundation.

  Mr Bowdler: If I may, Chairman, just add to that. I really do believe this is a false perception. In my role as chairman of Press Standards Board of Finance (Pressbof) in a sense I represent the industry in its link to the PCC and I can say categorically at no time do I expect to be able to tell Christopher or the PCC what they should be doing. There is no sense of any sort of pressure exerted through Pressbof on the PCC. I go and meet the board of the PCC once a year, I go to listen to their views about the industry and the way it is funded, to issues as they see them in the wider domain of the press, but there is no sense of the PCC being subject to industry direction, it simply does not hold water.

  Q357  Chairman: Let me just explore that. The Code Committee which sets the rules used to be chaired by Les Hinton; when Les Hinton retired and moved overseas he was replaced by the editor of a newspaper which some might say is adept at testing the boundaries of the Code, and the Code Committee consists entirely of industry representatives. Do you not think that in order to improve the credibility the Code Committee ought to have lay representation and perhaps it should not have a practising editor as its chairman?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: I think it works perfectly well. It was the original inspiration of Calcutt and the Calcutt inquiry that if a self-regulatory system was going to work the editors themselves, to use the jargon, should have ownership of the Code but an independent body should apply it and build up its jurisprudence. That is in effect what we have. If you have not seen it I really do commend the second edition of the Editor's Codebook which shows how independently the constitution is applied. In fact, it is not strictly true that only editors sit on the committee, and I must say they are a mixture of editors from all kinds of different publications but ex officio Tim and I sit on it. One of the innovations that has been introduced is that first of all there is now a public website for the Code Committee; secondly, members of the public can themselves put forward in the annual meetings to review the Code proposals for changes to the Code and we ourselves, Tim and I, bring to the Code Committee recommendations made by the Commission itself for changes to the Code. We played a very significant role in getting, in 2006, the Code amended to be more precise and detailed on the tricky question of reporting suicide. If it ain't broke don't try and fix it—I do not think it is broke, the system works well. There is a multiplicity of views that come into the Code Committee—the editor of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger sits on it, whom you might consider to be not exactly in the same camp as the current chairman—

  Q358  Chairman: We are going to hear from both of them in due course so we will discover.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: Exactly, you can ask them yourself. It is okay, it works well, and again the proof of the pudding is in this.

  Q359  Chairman: But you did recognise a few years ago that the credibility of the PCC board would be increased if you had more lay membership.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: Absolutely right.

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