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Will he? Won't he? Desmond's man hints at PCC return

Original Source: GUARDIAN BLOG: WED 02 NOVEMBER 2011
Wednesday 2 November 2011
Posted by Roy Greenslade16.48 GMT

Richard Desmond pulled his newspapers out of the Press Complaints Commission because he couldn't stand being part of a gentlemen's club.


But, if his senior aide, Paul Ashford, is to be believed, then he might just return if the "club" is reformulated.


Ashford spoke yesterday of Desmond having been invited "a little grudgingly" into the "private club", adding: "It was difficult to draw a line between commercial attacks and working together on a regulatory body."


So, with rivals getting "mixed up" in the commission, Desmond turned his back on the PCC after several years of membership.


We gave it a try, Ashford told a seminar at City University, but we reached a point, an issue, that led us to change our minds.


That issue was the PCC's singling out of Express Newspapers for vilification for its coverage of the Madeleine McCann disappearance.


"We published more negative stories about the case," he said. "But we also published more positive stories. We published more stories about it that anyone else."


He was implying that the Daily Express and Daily Star were unfairly treated when other papers were also publishing similarly intrusive stories.


What he did not address was the fact that the Express and Star were also singled out by Gerry and Kate McCann, leading to front page apologies and the payment of 550,000 in libel damages. And this legal move had nothing to do with self-regulation.


However, Ashford, the editorial director of Desmond's publishing company, Northern & Shell, did not appear unduly motivated against the current PCC.


He said, paradoxically, that he favoured either self-regulation or statutory regulation.


Ashford's comments come the day after Desmond, in an interview with Media Guardian's Dan Sabbagh, was asked why he would not return to the PCC he withdrew from two years ago.


Desmond replied by attacking the Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre.


He was quoting as saying: "I'm not sitting there with Dacre... Dacre goes out slagging me off; he can go fuck himself. I'm not worried about statutory regulation. I'm regulated by Ofcom for TV. I'm happy with that."


However, Sabbagh noted that Desmond did indicate that he might end his PCC exile. And Ashford seemed to reinforce that when coaxed into the spotlight at the seminar by George Brock, head of City University's journalism department.


The seminar, "Media regulation - new ideas", was co-organised by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ).


It began with an address by Lara Fielden, who introduced her new RISJ report, Regulating for trust in journalism, in which she argues in favour of a new co-ordinated form of regulation across all media platforms.


I'll come back her ideas at a later date.


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