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
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
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
He said, paradoxically, that he favoured either self-regulation or
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
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
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
I'll come back her ideas at a later date.