The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MR WILLIAM JOHN LEWIS (sworn).

  • Your full name, please, Mr Lewis?

  • Thank you. Under tab 4, you will see your witness statement, which doesn't in fact have a statement of truth at the end. Is this your evidence to the Inquiry?

  • Can we be clear about your statement: it is very lengthy and detailed. I understand that it took you some time over the summer holiday. Is that so?

  • It did, yes. It represents my sum total of my knowledge and recollection of my time at the Telegraph between 2006 and 2010 in relation to your questions.

  • I'm very grateful to you for taking the time to do it. It's been very helpful.

  • I'm very conscious that I've imposed a great deal on a large number of people, but I hope you feel that it's worth the effort.

  • Very much so, and it was actually very interesting reliving in my own mind and for this purpose what went on there, particularly with the MPs' expenses story.

  • Mr Lewis, if I can look first of all at your career. You've been, I think, at four separate papers. Between 1991 and 2002, you were at the Mail -- no, pardon me, you moved to the Financial Times at some stage between those two dates?

  • Yes. I started at the Mail on Sunday as a financial reporter in 1991. I then moved to the Financial Times in 1994.

  • Thank you. Then to the Sunday Times in 2002?

  • As business editor, yes.

  • City editor of the Telegraph in 2005 and you ended up, if I can put it in those terms, as editor in-chief of the Telegraph Media Group, from where you left in May 2010; is that correct?

  • Can I understand your current position: you are permanently seconded to News Corporation, and have been since July 2011, as executive member of the Management and Standards Committee which is looking into all the issues around the phone hacking matter. Is that so?

  • That is correct. The chairman is Lord Grabiner.

  • Thank you. We've asked you to address your time, as it were, at the Daily Telegraph, and not to cover your recent history at News International and then News Corporation, since a lot of what you're doing overlaps with the concurrent police investigation. Is that so?

  • That's not to say that at some time we're not going to ask Lord Grabiner and possibly you to come and assist us further, but I understand it --

  • Thank you. As you see fit, but for these purposes I understand my evidence to relate entirely to my time at the Telegraph between 2006 and 2010.

  • That is so. But I do have a general question for you, and it's one I've asked others, whether, in your perception, there are any cultural differences between the various papers for whom you've worked.

  • Yes, there were differences. Obviously I was at different levels of seniority at each of those different newspapers, but I think it's fair to say there was -- if you take the Financial Times, for example, there was a much more cerebral approach at the Financial Times. When I moved to the Sunday Times, I became aware of the power and the process involved in putting together such a fantastic newspaper, and the Telegraph, as I detail in my statement, was a process of tremendous change. We went through a very profound change programme there, where the culture shifted quite considerably.

  • Thank you, and most of your statement is devoted to that cultural shift and the systems and philosophies of corporate governance which you introduced over a four, five-year period; is that right?

  • Yes. Can I just deal with the background. When you arrived, the company, I think, was spread out geographically over a number of locations but that changed?

  • The impact of that may have been obvious, but in your own words, what was the impact of that change?

  • The goal that I was set was to try and find a way of publishing both newspapers to the same or higher standard -- that's the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph -- and at the same time to move confidently into embracing the new digital opportunities: online, mobile and so on, all within broadly the same budget. That was the goal that was the purpose of the change programme. And as I think was referred to earlier, another key part of this was putting the customer, the reader, the user online, at the very heart of the business, which hadn't been the case before, and all the changes that we took together and implemented stemmed from that goal.

  • The one specific issue you address under the old regime, as it were, in paragraph 6.3.4, is heavy reliance on casual labour.

  • As you describe it, what were the problems associated with that?

  • There were various issues related to casual labour. In particular, it was -- it made it difficult to effect serious cost control. Although department heads professed to have a grip on expenditure in that area, that was not the case, and so that, in addition to the need to professionalise -- the company was going to be investing a large amount of money in training programmes to help journalists understand how to do new media. It seemed sensible that that money should be spent on staff rather than casual labour.

  • Once the geography was sorted out, you rolled out what you call here the five governance principles?

  • Can we just identify those. The first was one, newsroom, which was really a question both of geographical integration and integrating the print and online operations; is that right?

  • The second governance principle: effective and transparent cost management and incentive schemes. Can you just tell us a little bit about that matter, please?

  • Well, that was -- a point of this part of the change programme was to get a firmer grip on costs in order to be able to effect change in the cost base, to be able to have new types of roles and new types of jobs. We faced a real opportunity but also a threat in the digital area. We needed to, within broadly the same money, create new jobs, whether it's early morning working, technology correspondence and so on, and so we needed to get much better about cost management, and that's what that passage refers to.

  • Thank you, and that had various subelements. First of all, the elimination of casual journalists, which is dealt with under 8.3, and then what you call external content, which starts under paragraph 8.6, and then there are various policies which you outline under 8.7; is that right? Which largely go to financial matters.

  • Yes, that's right, and also -- but control and visibility. I mean, one of the key issues here was trying to effect better management control through better transparency. If we can know in near real time how money was being spent, then we'd be able to manage the use of that money better.

  • Thank you. The third governance incidence principle, professionalisation, I suppose means improving the training and quality of the workforce, but governance principle four, which is very much related to that, training continuous professional development, in particular the introduction of training programmes, you explain that under paragraph 10 in particular.

  • Yes, and training was -- there's two issues here. We've already talked about the need for new media training and every colleague was given that opportunity, but there's also a need for ongoing training and professional development and core journalistic skills. So we were trying to really create a training culture at the Telegraph, and we did successfully, something which hasn't traditionally been the case in newspaper groups.

  • Part and parcel of that was the relaunching of the Telegraph's graduate trainee scheme.

  • Can I just follow that through a little bit. When you are employing people from the bottom, if I can put it in those terms, you explain there's a two-day programme of interviews and tests for the shortlisted candidates. Who carries out the interviews, first of all, and who decides who is going to be selected for employment?

  • I'm not sure I'd agree with the interpretation of "the bottom". I mean, some of our best people very quickly accessed great work, did great work at the Telegraph right from the very beginning. So I mean, one of the key people in the MPs' expenses story was a trainee journalist. If I could just --

  • Uh ... younger. Even that's not necessarily correct. But graduate trainees, if one can call them that.

    I was intimately involved in that process with senior colleagues. It was one of the main ways we were going to get replenishment of the gene pool, so we took it incredibly seriously and were very proud we got it relaunched and it still carries on today, I understand it.

  • In terms, though, of who decides who is going to be employed, who makes the hire decisions?

  • It would be a panel of senior editorial people. In my day, if I can recall correctly -- but this may not be entirely accurate -- it was two colleagues, Richard Preston and Simon Heffer, who brought their recommendation to me.

  • Of course, the Telegraph, aligned with the practice of other newspapers, are bringing in people higher up, lateral hires. Who would decide who was going to be hired pursuant to that sort of process?

  • Well, ultimately it would be the editor or editor in-chief, with heads of department making recommendations. And yes, you're right, there was quite a radical infusion of new blood into the Telegraph during my time there, where we tried to combine the best of the best from around Fleet Street to try and meet this challenge of producing both papers to the same or higher standard and embrace all digital opportunities.

  • Thank you. The fifth governance principle, clear appropriate reporting lines for editorial, finance, legal and compliance functions, you explain the differences in role between the editor or editor in-chief, the executive director and the legal manager. I don't think it's necessary to go through those specifically, but you helpfully explain that.

  • Could I just highlight one point here, which is that the concept of the independent force in the newsroom. This structure, my belief is, is quite or was quite unusual, where the editor didn't have these functions reporting to him or her. So it's something that was there right from the beginning of my tenure as editor, and I embraced and I came to understand how valuable it was.

  • Thank you. Your specific role -- and this you deal with under paragraph 13 -- was to ensure that the Telegraph's editorial corporate governance policies, which we've just been discussing, were adhered to in practice, and part and parcel of that was responsibility for ensuring that the editorial budget was adhered to.

  • Yes. The key roles of the editor were really fundamentally around what to publish and what not to publish in the papers and online, around people issues that we talked about, and making sure we're getting the best out of our people, and also to ensure that the budget that had been allocated was being spent sensibly and appropriately. That was overlayered, obviously, by the overall responsibility of the editor to ensure that the editorial department is going about its business in compliance with PCC, Reynolds and the law.

  • Thank you. Can I move on to paragraph 14, if I may. This is PCC issues. You didn't, I think, at the time your statement was prepared, have access to documents which would enable you to quantify the number of complaints which were resolved on the one hand without the need for a ruling and those which then proceeded to an adjudication; is that right?

  • Yes. No, that's correct.

  • If we want to know the precise figures, doubtless those can be provided in writing in due course. I'm going to pass over matters which we can either take as read or hear from the editor. Can I ask you about section 8, which is paragraph 18, ethics in print media.

  • Your analysis is really tripartite, I think. First of all, it entails employing the right people, secondly complying with the relevant standards as laid down by the code. Can I deal with the third one, "Judgment: does this feel right?"

  • How does this work in practice?

  • Well, in practice, it's exactly as I state there, that it's something that any editor will ask of him or herself on a regular basis, and they should and will, I'm sure, also ask that of senior colleagues. It speaks to the judgment that's at the heart of good editing.

  • It might be said this is not very scientific. Does it feel right doesn't involve the invocation of any particular principle or any standard; it's whether it feels right in one's waters, as it were.

  • Is it more precise than that?

  • One can take as many steps as one can to make scientific what is a creative process. Editors start each day with a blank bit of paper that they have to fill with vibrant, dynamic journalism by the end of the day, compliant with the law, code, spirit of the code, Reynolds, all carried out within Reynolds' journalistic practices. It's extremely challenging, creative work and at the end of the day you really have to ask yourself this nonscientific but really crucially important question of: does it feel right? And several times in my time at the Telegraph, it didn't feel right, so we didn't do it.

  • When you say "feel right", do you mean this doesn't sound right factually, it doesn't appear right ethically, it doesn't seem right emotionally, or is it all of those things?

  • I'm not sure about the third one. The emotional one wasn't necessarily --

  • No, I'd probably say it's the first two primarily. But I think -- the mistakes that I've made in my career, and there have been several, and they are numerous, have come about when I haven't followed my instinct, and that instinct can only be described as "does it feel right".

    The best advice I ever got was: if in doubt, don't do it that day. Wait a day, do it the next day, come at it again. And that's all that this paragraph is meant -- it's not meant to be a catch-all. I'm not suggesting it as a new regulatory framework.

  • I'm pleased to hear that.

  • Although it may rule out the need for lawyers, which may be troubling, or not, but I just think it would be wrong not to make it clear how important the feel is in the trade in which I've worked for the last 20 years.

  • It's really a default question of a slightly different level, isn't it? You may have done everything right. You may have got sensible people working on it. You may have sourced the story in a way that you are satisfied with. You may feel it will satisfies the PCC code --

  • -- but even then, although you've ticked all those boxes, if you're broadly unhappy, then you're not going to publish is that day? That's what you're saying?

  • I'm saying that. I'm saying that -- and it always annoys the reporter as well. They always go storming out of your office, and at the end of the day, that has to be an editor's right, to say, "It just doesn't feel right. I can't put my finger on it, but it doesn't feel right."

    Editing really, to give sort of gobbledygook management speak, is about risk mitigation. Editors have to wrestle each day with really difficult issues. We have a saying in my industry, which is: we don't make chocolates. Mars bars or the like don't come churning off a conveyor belt and simply accumulate in a box and -- it's a very complicated business, as I know you're aware. The best stories are never black and white. You don't get a receipt for a whistle-blower providing information to you. It's just not how it works, and so you will perhaps, on that basis, understand how the instincts of you and the people around you -- one is very reliant -- I was very reliant on my deputy during my time as editor, who's now the editor. I was reliant on my colleague, who is now the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, and a range of other important colleagues who would also hold you to account and would often ask the question: "Are you really sure? Does this not feel right? If which case, let's not do it."

  • I'm going to have problems articulating that, but there it is. I understand the point you're making.

  • May I move on, Mr Lewis, to the issue of private investigators and other external providers of information. This is paragraph 22.

  • You make it clear that the general practice at the Telegraph Media Group was not to pay private investigators. To the best of your knowledge, this never happened during your tenure between 2006 and 2010. But then you say in paragraph 22.18 you're fairly certain that a number of reporters would, from time to time, have some sort of contact with private investigators during the course of their reporting duties. Can you be more specific there about the sort of contact you're referring to there?

  • Yes. I mean, when a fraud hits a big company, they will often engage the services of a reputable investigations unit in order to help the company find out who did what when, and I would have expected my reporters involved in covering those types of stories to have engaged with those investigators to see if they could become sources who could provide timely information so that the readers of the Telegraph could be better informed about the fraud that had been ongoing at that company.

  • Thank you. Separately from that, a significant sum, you think in the order of £150,000, was paid to the intermediary, if I can so describe him, in connection with the MPs' expenses story; is that right?

  • Some specific questions, please, about the expenses story, which is picked up in paragraph 31.

  • The first issue, I suppose, which you had to satisfy yourself of was that the material was genuine and not a hoax?

  • Yes. I was concerned from the very beginning that it was a hoax. I used to work, as you referred to earlier, at the Sunday Times, when many years previously the Hitler diaries hoax took place, and the ghost of that particular situation still rose around the Sunday Times newsroom, so I was particularly aware of the possibility of someone trying to stitch me up by providing hoax material. Quite quickly I was able to satisfy myself -- although I will concede that worry about a hoax dogged me all the way through until the MPs finally confirmed it themselves. So my first concern was it being a hoax.

    I was also aware of the fact that this story was laced with risk all round, as the best and most important public interest journalism tends to be, whether it was the time that we had in order to be able to investigate it, whether it was the reaction of the readers, that one couldn't be certain of and all the people we were dealing with. It was a story that was laced with risk, so I felt the best way was to engage in an iterative process, a five-step process, if you like, in order to run this investigation and to conclude finally about publication, which I'm happy to share with you, if you wish.

  • Just to go through some of the stages, one of the early issues, I think, was whether a breach of the criminal law might be perpetrated. Have I understood that correctly?

  • Stage one was I was told by colleagues that they had been approached by an intermediary on behalf of a source to say they had got four years' worth of MPs' data copied onto a disk. Obviously, the first question was: could we go ahead and negotiate with that source and have that kind of conversation? So we took legal advice, and given that the information had been copied onto a disk, the advice was that was not capable of theft, and in addition it was also seen as being important that no Telegraph person had been involved in the copying process. It would be also wrong not to state now that already at the very beginning I was pretty aware of the likely public interest in the material seeing the light of day, so that was phase one.

  • I understand that, but let me just change the facts a little bit and ask whether it would have made a difference.

  • Assume that it hadn't been a disk that whoever it was copied it had bought in a shop and taken in and then copied the data on -- because I'm aware of the law in relation to intellectual property -- but they'd actually stolen a disk. In other words, they'd used a disk that wasn't theirs and stolen it. Do you think that would have made an entirely different analysis of the position?

  • I would obviously have got legal advice, as I got throughout this process, and I would like to think that we would have been able to find a way to bring this very important information to the readers' attention without breaking the law.

  • Handling stolen property. That's the law.

  • I don't know what the legal advice would be, but my first port of call would have been to get legal advice and --

  • You were having a go at lawyers a few minutes ago.

  • All right, all right, keep going. Cheap, cheap.

  • Apologies, yes. But the second phase I think is really quite important. So I felt comfortable with my negotiating team going to meet the source, and the source was really quite interesting because he wanted some money, which was not unexpected, he wanted some legal protection, but what was really interesting was that he wanted -- the reason he had come to the Telegraph was he wanted to ensure fair and balanced coverage. He wanted to be certain that the Labour MPs and the Conservative MPs all had their chance to have their day in the sun, as it were. Of course, I was delighted to provide that, because that's what we would have done anyway.

    We then, on that basis, concluded this agreement and then moved to phase three, which was the most important phase and the most difficult phase, which was we had ten days given to us to investigate the data on this disk, and the data ran to more than a million documents. So we had to put together the best of the best in a secret room and get them to see what was on this disk, and they uncovered quite quickly things that no one thought probable, looking through such stuff. So I became very aware that it was my responsibility to bring this to the public domain. It was no longer going to be a choice for me as editor; I now this a duty to bring this into the public domain.

    Which takes me onto stage four, which was about engaging with colleagues on how we were going to publish. This was a matter of enormous importance because I wanted it to be seen to be fair and balanced in our approach, and we concluded that we should rightly start with the government and then move into the opposition as it was then, the Conservative party.

    Stage 5 was then about writing to each MP to say, "Here are allegations we need to put to you", giving them due notice, and waiting for their replies. I can remember it as if it was yesterday when I was told that Jack Straw had replied, confirming information and explaining his expenses, and only then did I feel able to give the green light to publication that evening.

  • Thank you. This yielded a number of complaints, some of which were successful, others not, and you list those in paragraph 31.10, I think, Mr Lewis.

  • Yeah, mistakes are always an issue, and I hated it when we made errors, and I hated it even more in relation to this story, but I will say in defence of what we did that the mistake ratio here is reasonably low and I remain hugely proud of -- given the intensity with which the MPs' expenses team had to work, the incredible pressure they worked under, continual threat of trying to be stopped what they were doing, I think this record is one we should be proud of.

  • Some might say the expenses story went on for too long and the Telegraph, as it were, eked it out for what it was worth. You say that the strategy was to start with the government, work down and move on to the opposition, but really, you took every possible commercial advantage that was open to you to, as it were, make as much money out of this as possible. Would you accept that?

  • No, I wouldn't, and I suppose some might say that it represents one of the most important bits of public service and public interest journalism in the post-war period that unveiled and revealed such wrongdoing in Parliament that the speaker had to resign and many MPs followed after him, and I'd probably prefer that version of events rather than the one you put to me.

  • Okay. So it wasn't a question then of achieving a return on a no doubt substantial investment for the material in the first place? You wouldn't agree with that proposition?

  • I wouldn't agree with that. I'd say that the reason that we did it was because ultimately I was obliged -- I saw it as my ethical obligation to bring this profound wrongdoing at the heart of the House of Commons into the public domain, and remain passionately of that view now.

  • No one would seriously suggest that the Telegraph was not entitled to make money, but looking at the circulation figures over this period of time, as I'm sure you did, is it possible to say whether or not there was a return on the Telegraph's investment?

  • I don't know, but I wouldn't agree with the premise of the question that the money paid was an investment. It was a way to ensure that the readers of the Telegraph and the broader British public were able to find out about the profound wrongdoing in the House of Commons and how MPs had stolen from the taxpayer.

  • Of course it's accepted that without payment you weren't going to get the data, and one can characterise the payment in whatever terms one wishes, either in your terms or in mine, but however it's characterised, is it capable of being demonstrated with reference to the circulation figures whether the increase in circulation and therefore the resultant increase in revenue overtopped the amount of money that had to be paid for the retention of the data?

  • I don't know the answer to that question. In line with other big stories that I've been involved with, one would expect circulation to go up, but at the heart of the MPs' expenses story was a desire to ensure that loyal Telegraph readers -- and you've already heard about the unusual loyalty of Telegraph readers -- were informed about how their MPs were fleecing the taxpayer.

  • I've been asked to put to you a question on a completely unrelated matter, and I gave you some notice of this.

    It concerns the sting, if I can so describe it, of Dr Vince Cable, which I think was in December of 2010, when two female journalists from the Telegraph impersonated his constituents. You obviously know about that matter, although by that stage it's right to point out that you had left the Telegraph; is that correct?

  • Indeed, we know from the chronology that you left that summer, didn't you?

  • Yes. May, actually, I think.

  • The original story in the Telegraph, published on 20 December 2010, did not include Dr Cable saying that he'd declared war on Rupert Murdoch by referring the BSkyB bid to Ofcom. Do you recall that?

  • Subsequently Mr Peston of the BBC got hold of the full story, including those remarks, and the question then arose where Mr Peston had got that information from. Am I right in saying that the Telegraph carried out an internal investigation through private investigators to see who had leaked or might have leaked the story to Mr Peston? Is that correct?

  • I have no idea. As you said earlier in your question, I left the Telegraph in May 2010, so I've no idea if the Telegraph conducted such an investigation.

  • Okay. But the conclusion, insofar as there was one, which the investigators reached was that there was a strong suspicion that you and someone else were involved in orchestrating the leaking of that information to Mr Peston. The question I have for you --

  • -- is simply this: is that strong suspicion correct or incorrect? Or, rather, did you leak this information to Mr Peston?

  • I can't assist you with that. As you know, core to any journalist -- and I'm included -- is the protection of journalistic sources, whether they're my sources or someone else's sources, and any way that I answer that question, helpful as I would like to be, would endanger that principle. If I was to give you an example, if I was to confirm that I was not involved at all, and that is -- those reports -- the reports you've just read out to me are inaccurate, I'm sure that would cause the Telegraph and/or this agency that you say that they took on -- but I don't know that for a fact -- to reinvestigate and to try and hunt down what might be entirely legitimate journalistic sources. So I can't assist you on that.

  • Can I just press that a little bit further, Mr Lewis? There are two possibilities here, logically. Either it was you who leaked the information to Mr Peston, in which case there's no question of a source involved because you were the person who leaked the information, or it wasn't you, in which case it's not your source that's involved, but Mr Peston and his relationship with another source. I'm not quite sure why you're unwilling to tell us "yes" or "no" whether you provided this information to Mr Peston, since there's no question of --

  • [Alarm sounded]

  • One might have thought you were responsible for this, but this is the not the Queen's building, so we are not -- I'm afraid it will happen twice.

  • I'm in danger of repeating myself, but I will repeat myself, which is that -- I think it's clause 14 of the PCC code, for me, as I've lived with all my professional drear, is as much about protecting my own sources as it is for protecting other journalistic sources. I just won't do it. So I don't mean to frustrate, and I hope you'll agree I've been as helpful as I can be in areas that are of importance, I thought, to this Inquiry, but in this instance I've probably gone as far as I can and should.

  • Okay, Mr Lewis, I fully accept that you have been a great assistance to the Inquiry. I'm not going to press the matter further unless it's suggested that I should.

  • You heard the debate or discussion that I had, I have no doubt, with Mr MacLennan.

  • I appreciate that your present role may involve you thinking about some of these issues, but if you do have anything to say having regard to your experience as an editor in relation to these matters, I wanted to give you the opportunity to say it.

  • That's very kind. I do, and in my statement I make some references to some ideas, but that was in August, and my thinking has built on that since then. I know you asked people to go away and think about --

  • I hope this is of some use, but I would say four things, I think. They may or may not be of use.

    Firstly, I completely agree with your judgment not to rush to judgment, I mean, in terms of how to change, since it's incredibly complicated, and we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is tremendous work -- good work that, for example, the PCC has done over the years that we mustn't lose.

    But my key point is this: that there's been a lot of talk, rightly so, about what the son of PCC who look like, whether it should be legislated for -- wrong, no, it should be self-legislated, but if I understand the key question to be that there is legitimate public concern about newsroom behaviours, and that we need to find ways to assure the public that newsroom behaviour is going to improve and can be controlled, if I understand that to be the central question, then we must therefore focus our attention on what's the best way to influence those newsroom behaviours.

    You can then turn the question around, can't you, and say: what is best practice newsroom behaviour? And it strikes me that that's a question we need to focus on now as a matter of urgency, so that issues like an independent force within the newsroom being a key best practice principle would be, I think, something that I would suggest. Assurances of the independence of the editor it is another key principle, and alongside the Editors' Code, you would see the son of the PCC, this new regulator, hold newsrooms to account on those principles as well as the Editors' Code, and that's the best way in my mind for influencing newsroom behaviour.

    At the same time, you would ensure that newsrooms had to be transparent and therefore accountable for how their newsrooms operated. Sunlight is a fantastic disinfectant, and the very act of causing newsrooms to have to disclose how they work and how far away they are from best practice would be an incredibly empowering act to help assure the public that newsroom behaviours were under control.

    I know you will probably be thinking: what about the issue of how do you get everywhere in the tent? I don't think you've call it the Richard Desmond issue, but it is the Richard Desmond issue as things stand.

  • It's much more than Richard Desmond. There are magazines, all other sorts of journals that aren't members of the PCC, aren't there?

  • Correct, correct, and I think there my thinking is focused really on following the money. Businesses tend to make decisions where the money increases rather than decreases, and logic would dictate that if this son of PCC was able to control the currency, the advertising currency that is so vital to the newspaper industry, which is currently owned by organisations such as ABC and NRS -- if those were to come under the control of the son of PCC, then any newspaper group outside of the son of PCC would be unable to sell its advertising wares based on these crucial currencies that are so important to how newspapers sell advertising.

    In addition, in the increasingly important online advertising market, ABCE would also and should also fall under the control of this new regulator, so you wouldn't be able to force anyone to join it but if you wanted, as a media house, to continue to use this advertising currency, you would have to be part of son of PCC.

  • How would you require that to happen?

  • How would you require the son of PCC to get that control?

  • I'm not going to call it the son of PCC because that suggests that a little tinkering will do, and I'm not sure it would.

  • I don't mean to imply that at all. I understand the PCC up until this point to have been a mediator with regulatory reputation, and I think there is now -- I don't disagree with the emerging consensus of the need for the industry to have a regulator, a self-regulator, an industry that -- the industry should set it up for itself, albeit with non-industry people. I don't disagree with that emerging consensus at all.

    You wouldn't be able to force people to join it, but if you create an environment where the money, the advertising money, was more able to be accessed if you were a member of it, that would be one step that would cause this to happen.

  • I'm not sure how you would be able to require advertisers to commit into such an organisation. Why would a company wishing to advertise, say, "Well, of course I'll only go to those who are approved by the regulator" unless you required it? And once you're requiring it, then you're going to run yourself into other difficulties. I'm happy to talk about it. I'm also happy to talk about independent regulation, however that comes about, and I'm also concerned to know how you would fit in the general requirement that people have expressed concern about in relation to libel and the cost of litigation and to have some speedier mediation solution.

  • Yes, I heard that debate and discussion you had earlier. Just to clarify my advertising point, the way that newspaper advertising broadly works at the moment is that newspaper groups use this currency, whether it's through ABC or NRS or some other currencies, which is almost a stamp of approval that these bodies give to say you have this many readers or this many eyeballs on your website, and you use that, as a newspaper group, to then go to the advertising agencies that by and large control corporate advertising and you get -- off the back of that, you win advertising.

    So my argument is that the son of PCC, as I'm calling it, would -- should get control of that currency, to give an extra motivation to media houses to become part of that regulatory framework.

  • We'll obviously have to look at how that works.

    Is there anything else that you --

  • Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

  • Sir, the final witness is Mr Tony Gallagher.