Yesterday saw the publication of the Lords’ committee’s ‘The Future of Investigative Journalism’ report, which described investigative journalism as vital to democracy, but warned that it faced a number of threats – including PR.
The report claims that PR is ‘very much an unregulated activity, and there is currently no comprehensive system of self-regulation’. It recommends that PR practitioners ‘should abide by a stringent code of behaviour, which could be derived from the existing CIPR code or something similar, and which might be overseen by a third party’.
Speaking with a rare united voice, both the PRCA and CIPR have dismissed the findings. PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham said: ‘To suggest that PR practitioners are in some way responsible for a perceived decline in the print media is simply absurd.’
Ingham goes on to say that self-regulation ‘broadly speaking works’.
‘The idea that Parliamentarians should concentrate on extending statutory regulation to an industry that doesn’t need it, particularly at a time when there are much bigger issues on which to concentrate, is ridiculous.
‘Quite simply, this is posturing of the most empty sort. A report to file straight in the bin.’
CIPR chief executive Jane Wilson – who provided evidence to the committee - said she was ‘disappointed’ that the report was dismissive of self-regulation.
‘Proposals for the registration of journalists have been criticised as impractical, out of tune with the times and unlikely to resolve the misdemeanours of certain part of the media. Suggesting third-party regulation for the PR industry is equally flawed.’
Visiting professor of PR at the University of Westminster Trevor Morris dubbed the report ‘half baked’, adding that an enforced code of conduct would require PR to become a closed or restricted entry profession.
‘PR can be done, at least in theory, by anyone who wants to communicate to the public,’ said Morris. ‘Restricting who can speak to the media to people who have qualified for membership of a PR body would be undemocratic, and unpopular with the media.
‘PR operates in an open market place where poor practice is seldom threatening to life or society and is quickly corrected, either by media attack or the free market.'