Dickson blamed accounting scandals in the US for declining journalistic faith in businesses, saying the 'most obvious' reason for the diminution of trust was, 'to paraphrase Bill Clinton's one-time campaign slogan - "It's the cheating, stupid"'.
'Parts of the PR industry have such questionable ethics that the media is absolutely right in its mistrust,' said Dickson.
Journalists also came in for criticism, though, with Dickson saying many had 'too little appetite for tackling financial statements', were dazzled by the 'cult of the celebrity CEO' and wrongly prioritised the publication of exclusives ahead of ensuring accuracy.
He said the attitudes of companies' CEOs, chairmen and financial directors were more important than the activities of PR departments in determining companies' media relations.
In a separate speech, Chime Communications chairman Lord Bell said that he saw a failure to maximise the potential of broadcasting as the PR industry's 'one great failing'.
Bell said the industry should seek opportunities in sponsorship, celebrity endorsement and product placement work in order to fuel growth.
He also claimed that media coverage of the war in Iraq exemplified a shift from an 'age of deference' to an 'age of reference', with information about frontline events now primarily distributed by the media and not the 'authorities'.