Riposte to Lord Wakeham

12 July 2001 – Lord Wakeham, Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, has been loudly defending the role of the Commission in dismissing complaints against The Sun for its payments to convicted train robber Ronnie Biggs, and lauding the PCC’s services to ordinary complainants. This was the PressWise response, published on the letters page of The Guardian on July 9:

The smugness of Lord Wakeham (letters, July 6) is becoming unbearable. He claims that the Press Complaints Commission deals with some 2,500 complaints each year, yet fails to mention that only about 1% of those complaints receive a favourable adjudication. At PressWise we represent many of those ordinary people who strive to get satisfaction from the PCC, and know well their feelings of frustration and anger in dealing with a procedure which seems loaded against them at every stage.

The PCC exists for one purpose only: to stave off the possibility of a government (it would have to be braver than this one) instituting statutory control on press standards. In that, but nothing else, Lord Wakeham has achieved huge success.

If self-regulation of the press is to be meaningful, any reformed PCC would have to be financed from public funds, hire staff to make an independent investigation of complaints, and have the power to order financial redress. A new chairman, free of political ties and with the guts to stand up to the likes of Rupert Murdoch, would be a welcome start.

Mike Jempson

(Bulletin No 46)

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