Ian Monk: We must use PCC more effectively

For all the power of social media, there remain few forces as potent as newspapers in creating or destroying reputation.

For practitioners concerned with brands or individuals they remain a key area of influence.

Thus it is worth taking a keen interest in the work of the Press Complaints Commission. Set up 20 years ago as the self-regulatory body of the industry, it was supposedly the last chance for newspapers before Parliament brought in laws to govern their conduct.

It was hard then to see Parliament having the courage to legislate to curb the powers of newspapers, and far harder to imagine in these days of politicians' almost total obsession with favourable headlines and cosy media dinners. So, often bloodied by allegations of collusion with the newspapers that fund it, the 17-member commission survives - mandated to offer redress to all victims of published inaccuracies, privacy, intrusion and harassment.

Hard-nosed and expensive libel and privacy lawyers tend to be derogatory about its ability to right newspapers' wrongdoings. Many point to its supine acceptance of the original News of the World defence of its widespread use of phone hacking as an indication of tame poodle status.

The same lawyers remain frequently scathing about the inability, or even the willingness, of the PCC to impose effective sanctions against intrusions into privacy and act as a tool of reputation management. However, many PROs believe the PCC does play an effective part in protecting client reputation - either through redress or prevention.

There is no doubt it has a voice with editors that can be effectively used, for example, in curbing harassment. Equally its critical adjudications are published with varying prominence in offending newspapers.

One thing the PCC has not so far done is to appoint representation from our industry. It is currently seeking to fill three vacancies - hopefully PROs will be represented in the applications.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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