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

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 400-401)


24 MARCH 2009

  Q400  Chairman: A very, very short codicil.

  Sir Christopher Meyer: Just to illustrate to Mr Farrelly that despite all the technological development we still hold to the principle that the buck stops with the editor in the sense that the editorial decision on content, be it online or in print, be it static or audiovisual, the responsibility still in the end falls to the editor, because unless you have that as a cornerstone of this system you start to get in terrible trouble about who is responsible for what. It may be difficult for an editor now to control everything that goes on in the empire, but the principle has not changed.

  Q401  Adam Price: Finally, looking 10 years down the line, we are in the internet age but we are actually moving towards convergence. If you go to most national newspapers these days they look half like a television studio or a radio studio. Jon Gaunt gets sacked on TalkSport and now is going to be fronting up the Sun's Sun Talk live morning show where he will probably be reproducing much of the same stuff. If he calls somebody, as he did, a Nazi or an ignorant pig you will be able to intervene, but if he offends taste or decency—if he had been on radio of course there would have been an inquiry—you are not going to intervene. Is that not a contradiction?

  Sir Christopher Meyer: There is a big structural question in what you have just said and also there is an immediate question. I can tell you—and the Sun will confirm this—that the Jon Gaunt radio show will be under our jurisdiction. We have managed so far to handle the visual side of audiovisual perfectly well and now we are getting the audio side of audiovisual and I have every confidence we will handle that equally well. Down the line, 10 years from now—and I have said this before—I would be most surprised if the regulatory architecture were the same as it is today for precisely convergence reasons. I had this dream—which may be no more than a fantasy—that actually in the end Ofcom will get out of content, will get out of television broadcasting content, because the only way to go in the digital age is self-regulatory. Only self-regulation has the flexibility and the buy-in from the industry to create clearings of order in the jungle of the internet.

  Adam Price: There is a thought.

  Chairman: I am not sure that at 12 minutes past one we can reopen the entire Communications Act; that is for another day perhaps. Can I thank all three of you very much.

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Prepared 23 February 2010