The press in the UK has been subject to self-regulation for over fifty years. The self-regulatory era began with the creation of a voluntary Press Council in 1953, which aimed to maintain high ethical standards of journalism and to promote press freedom.
A Press Standards Board of Finance(Pressbof), modelled on the self-regulatory system established by the advertising industry in 1974, was established and charged with raising a levy upon the newspaper and periodical industries to finance the Commission. This arrangement ensures secure financial support for the PCC in a way that underpins its independence, since the Commission is not itself responsible for obtaining funds directly from newspapers and magazines.
After overcoming the teething problems associated with most new organisations, the PCC has continued to grow in stature - building on the accomplishments of its early years. In 1995 the then Government recognised the achievements of the PCC in making effective press self-regulation in its White Paper – “Privacy and Media Intrusion”. In 2003 House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select committee concluded that “overall, standards of press behaviour, the Code and the performance of the Press Complaints Commission have improved over the last decade”. A further inquiry into self-regulation of the press by the Select Committee in 2007 concluded that the system of self regulation should be maintained for the press, and that there was no case for a statutory regulator. It further concluded that a privacy law was undesirable. To read the PCC’s response to the report, click here.
A 2009 Select Committee report into "Press Standards, Privacy and Libel" stated that "self-regulation of the press is greatly perferable to statutory regulation, and should continue". To read the PCC's full response to the report, click here.
The previous Labour government voiced its support for self regulation. In December 2007, the then DCMS Minister Margaret Hodge MP said the following:
“The Government strongly supports freedom of speech and a free press. It is therefore appropriate that there should be a system of self-regulation. We are generally satisfied that the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice is both adequate and appropriate for its purpose. We therefore have no intention of bringing forward any new proposals.”
The Prime Minister, the Right Hon. David Cameron MP has also publicly stated his support for self-regulation. Speaking to Press Gazette at the British Press Awards in April 2008 when he was Leader of the Opposition, he stated:
“We’ve no plans to change self-regulation. I think the PCC has settled down and the system is now working better than it once did. But that’s not to say that there isn’t an on-going need to make sure the press acts responsibly”.
Anyone interested in reading a more detailed account of the history of the PCC is advised to read ‘A Press Free and Responsible: Self-regulation and the Press Complaints Commission 1991 - 2001’ by Richard Shannon, published by John Murray (2001).
In November 2012, Lord Hunt, Chair of the PCC, responded to the publication of Lord Justice Leveson's Report. He reiterated a commitment to moving forward as swiftly as possible to a new regulatory body. The UK newspaper and magazine industry has agreed to construct a new regulatory system which is compliant with Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations and is currently in discussions about the precise form that will take. Lord Hunt is working with the industry to set up the new organisation in accordance with those agreed objectives, and is keeping Government and Parliament informed of progress.