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


  • First of all, may I ask each of you to provide the Inquiry with your full names, please? First of all, Dr Moore.

  • Martin John Edward Moore.

  • William Andrew Moy.

  • Each of you has put in a main submission and then a number of additional or subsidiary submissions. In relation to Dr Moore, it's our tab 1. I don't think there is a date on it, but it's a submission which is obviously directed to the Inquiry. May I just confirm that this is your truthful evidence to the Inquiry Dr Moore?

  • We have annexed to it other materials including a report in 2009, "A more accountable press", other reports, a statistical review of the PCC and other materials which have been drawn to our attention. Mr Moy, your main submission is at our tab 12. It's an 89-page submission. Again, is that your truthful evidence to the Inquiry?

  • You've provided us again with further materials, a submission on regulatory approaches and user experience, which is our tab 13. Full Fact churnalism corrections, correspondence and a related annex which are tabs 15 and 16. Your response to the 12 key questions on module one, questions which were raised on 16 November, that's tab 16.

  • Material relating to the Internet, which I understand your conclusions of which you wish to amend?

  • And that version has been made available. And then there's the presentation you gave to the seminar on 12 October, "The future for self-regulation". Are you happy that that is accommodated into your evidence?

  • I am. I should probably say that that speech was written in a request for something to kick off debate and stimulate discussion, so it's not what you might call the Full Fact manifesto, but in its own terms yes, absolutely.

  • Before we start, could I thank you both for the enormous amount of work you've obviously put into all this. As I'm sure you appreciate, your views and your submissions absolutely go to the very core of what I have to consider, and I've found them very interesting. In a different world, I would very much welcome the opportunity to spend a very, very great deal of time talking about them, but I'm sure you appreciate that the dynamic of the time means that's not going to be possible, but I wouldn't want you to think that I was in any sense dismissive or not fully appreciative of what you've done, and there are some bits of work, I mean doubtless Mr Jay will come to parts of it, that I would like to take up and ask for some further work on, if that's possible.

    Let me just give one example. You've done some work on the statistics in relation to the PCC, which we've received. I don't know whether that's been shared with the PCC and whether they've had the opportunity to respond to it, but I'd quite light to drill into that, because I've been presented with figures and if I can make more sense of them and where the balance lies, I'd be grateful.


  • May I ask you each separately to give a mini biography of yourself and then in your case Full Fact, and in your case, Dr Moore, the Media Standards Trust. First of all, Mr Moy.

  • Sure. I've been director of Full Fact since September 2007, before which I was working in the House of Lords for an independent cross bench peer. It's possibly worth saying I didn't have any substantive dealings with any of the peers who have represented the PCC here.

    Before that I worked for the All-Party Group on Transport Safety, again a nonpartisan charity, and before that I was doing a philosophy degree. In a previous life I was briefly an IT consultant.

    Full Fact is a non-partisan, nonprofit organisation which seeks to promote, working with journalists and politicians, the availability of trustworthy information in public debate. We are best known for fact-checking the claims made by politicians and journalists and we're an online publisher, therefore in our own right we're also a critical commentator on statistical policy.

    We're constituted as a charity, and in the process of registering as a charity, so we operate under a statutory public benefit obligation.

  • Thank you. Dr Moore?

  • I graduated from Cambridge in 1992, history, spent three years in the US, came back to do a Master's in history at the LSE, worked briefly in television production on a programme for Channel 4, worked for almost a decade for a small media research and development company that did work across the board for BBC, for IPC Media and many others. Whilst there I went back to the LSE to do a doctorate in the history department, but it was about the relationship between the government and the media, and based on that doctorate, I wrote a book called "The Origins of Modern Spin" published in 2006.

    I became the director of the Media Standards Trust in 2006, at its founding, and have been there since.

    The Media Standards Trust is an independent, nonpartisan charity. Its aim is to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public. It does that through research, like a think tank. It does it through development of online resources for the public, to help them navigate the news. It does it through campaigns -- we work closely with Hacked Off -- and it does it by running the Orwell Prize for political writing.

  • Thank you very much. I am going to divide up this session into three sections. First, evidence bearing on current culture, practice and ethics of the press. Secondly, diagnosis of problems, if any, in the existing regulatory system. And third, proposals for reform.

    Mr Moy, your evidence is relevant to all three of those, but is particularly relevant to the first category. If I can ask you, please, to turn up your submission, which is our tab 12, and starts at 52724. You provide us, Mr Moy, with a significant number of examples. Are these intended to be comprehensive?

  • No. I should make absolutely clear the limits of our research, which is spelt out in the submission. We fact check neither a representative nor a random sample of media outputs. Anything you conclude from the collection of examples we've given is persuasive of the media in general, perhaps, but it can't be said to be a definitive or sort of an academic sample.

  • You analyse three types of error. If I could ask you to go to 53727, first up is misunderstanding of the information reported. Just particularly with statistics, often reports become blown out of proportion in order to make them more eye-catching or possibly to fit a certain agenda.

  • The second category is 53728, reporting a third party's spurious information. This addresses the problem with sources?

  • And often sources don't stand up or are simply wrong, is a point you make?

  • And then the third point, wilful inaccuracy, creating the wrong impression, what do you mean by "wilful" there?

  • We mean examples where it's hard to see how the journalist could have come up with the story they came up with from the sources they're citing other than by deliberately distorting them.

  • You provide one example -- it's perhaps invidious to give examples when I'm doing it I hope fairly randomly -- of a Daily Express piece to do with house prices, it suggested house prices were going up.

  • In fact if one looked up at the whole piece, it's quite clear that in fact they were going to go down?

  • Which I think is what happened in the end?

  • This is something I mentioned in my seminar speech. The big headline front page splash I think was something like "House prices set to surge", backed up with quotes from various house pricing experts. The quote from Mr Archer was that it will provide significant support for house prices. This was taken out of context from a passage which concluded that "given that house prices have already fallen by some 3 per cent, we believe that they will fall by around 7 per cent in 2011". I just repeat the headline on that was "House prices set to surge". You may be able to do that accidentally under pressure of time, but I'm not quite sure how.

    Before we go on, I should emphasise that this isn't really Full Fact's territory. Our job is to play the bull, not the man, and we don't normally make judgments about the mindset of people who are making claims. It's not our business. It's for our readers to do, and in this case it's for the chairman to do. Clearly it would just be stupid for me to sit here in the Inquiry and claim total naivety about what's going on here, but ultimately these judgments aren't for us, they're for our readers and for you.

  • No, I appreciate that, and that's clear. All this material is material that goes into the enormous amount of material that's been generated by the Inquiry to try and consider what's been happening and where we should go for the future.

  • You've helpfully collected some examples under section 1 at 53737. There are very many examples there. It probably would be invidious to alight on any of them, since if I didn't cover each newspaper, then some would say that I've given unfair weight to a particular newspaper, so for that reason I won't.

  • I'm going to come back to section 2 in due course to show how complaints are dealt with, but so it's absolutely clear, the Inquiry has considered each of the examples you've given.

  • Dr Moore, your submission touches on current culture, practice and ethics at paragraph 27, although I know it wasn't the primary purpose of your submission to address that, it was more to address my second and third themes. On the Internet numbering, it's page 4. On my version, I don't have the URN number. Paragraph 27. You said:

    "At its heart the phone hacking scandal was about abuse of power. People within Britain's biggest commercial media company came to believe they were not accountable to regulation, to the law, or to our elected representatives."

    You're expressing a wide opinion there about what was happening within News International, which again will be for the Inquiry to consider.

    Paragraph 28a you summarise there the types of issue which have concerned the Inquiry in this first module. Have you any comment on the evidence the Inquiry has received, particularly in these first three or four weeks before the new year?

  • From the core participant victims?

  • Yes. Is it representative of the sort of matters you're referring to generally here or is it remarkable or exceptional? How would you see it?

  • Well, I think as the Inquiry heard, it was varied. I think there were clear examples of gross intrusion across many different aspects of people's lives. I think certainly when we wrote our 2009 report, we were very conscious about the coverage specifically of the McCanns, as the Inquiry has been, but we had heard and seen many other examples, both individual examples of people being misrepresented, attacked, and numerous examples of inaccuracy, which Will's talked about and I can talk about more.

  • In your 2009 report, which is under our tab 2, section 3, 58835, you identify three particular factors which bear on current culture, practice and ethics. The first factor is the public trust in the press, already very low, may be declining further, and you refer to various polls. What is the message of those poll, apart from what we gather from the headline?

  • The Ipsos MORI poll, which I think has been running for a number of decades, has consistently had journalists very low towards the bottom, but other polls more recently have suggested that -- and that's, when you break it down, that's more specific to the red tops in the past. If you look at more recently, particularly since I think Hutton onwards, there has been a decline more broadly both of broadsheet and mid-market and tabloid, and even of broadcast. So there seems to have been in the last decade a further decline from across the board, not just simply from some of the papers that people have never particularly trusted.

  • Thank you. Your second subheading, 3.2, at page 58836, "Risks of inaccuracy in the press are increasing", and the point you make there:

    "Competitive and commercial pressures increase at the same time as numbers of journalists and editors employed decrease."

    Is that right?

  • Yes. It's a similar point that Nick Davies was making in Flat Earth News.

  • Thank you. Then your third point:

    "Growing concern about privacy intrusion."

    And you cite in particular Operation Motorman, but then three other pieces of litigation. Obviously the criminal case Goodman/Mulcaire, Murray v Big Pictures case, which we've heard evidence about, and then the Mosley case.

    Can I ask each of you to comment on a point which has recently been made, that there's been too much focus on the bad in the sense that the majority of journalists exhibit good practice the majority of the time, more or less what Mr Dacre said, but he put it in his own words, of course. Is that a fair representation or does it have to be qualified in some way? Perhaps if you could focus on the way I've put it rather than how anybody else might have put it.

  • I absolutely think it's incredibly important to talk about the enormous amount of excellent good journalism across the country, and particularly I think at a local level. I think part of the problem here is that there haven't been any allegations at local level, local news is struggling enormously and local journalists are working incredibly hard.

    I should also say that one of the reasons why the Media Standards Trust runs the Orwell Prize for political writing on behalf of the Council of the Orwell Prize is specifically to highlight and to show the excellent journalism across the board at the national and the local level, and we give prizes not just to the journalism, but also to the blog and to the book that has most closely achieved Orwell's aim of turning political writing into an art.

  • Do you have a perspective on this, Mr Moy?

  • Yes, I share the view that it's important to recognise that the majority of journalists and the majority of journalism is good and worthwhile and much of it is admirable. I think the opposite of the other half of the question. I think we haven't talked enough about the problems. We've spent a lot of time focusing on the impact on individual victims, we've spent a lot of time on intrusion and prize problems, but we've barely touched on the widespread problem of accuracy, which is a huge problem, which the public recognise and have recognised, as Martin was saying, for decades.

    Unlike the other problems that have prompted the Inquiry, it has been largely unacknowledged by the industry so far, and that is most worrying, because going to the Inquiry's terms of reference, one of the things you're asked to make recommendations about is warning signs that are missed. Fewer that two in 10 people trusting journalists to tell the truth is the clearest possible warning sign. It's not inevitable, it's not the case in other comparable countries. It is a real warning sign that not all journalism isn't trustworthy, not even most journalists aren't trustworthy, but enough journalism by enough journalists is untrustworthy that it doesn't make sense for the ordinary member of the public to trust journalism, and that's a huge problem for our society, because journalism is important, and the good journalism is devalued by journalism which is recklessly inaccurate.

    I suppose the one other thing I should say about accuracy is this is squarely in the realm of regulation, not law. We've heard a lot about how the Inquiry's problems are basically legal problems which should have been fixed by the police. Widespread inaccuracy of the sort shown by the many, many examples we've put before you is a regulatory problem. It is a regulatory failing. It's clearly heralded not just by polls but by many, many examples that expert organisations would point you to, if they hadn't given up trying by now, and it's something that really needs to be at the heart of what the Inquiry makes recommendations about.

  • Thank you very much. Because the examples you give, most of them, there wouldn't be a claimant in defamation proceedings because they are generic inaccuracy complexes.

  • They're what the PCC calls general accuracy. They affect society at large. Whether or not the GTP has gone up or down is important to all of us, whether crime has gone up or down is important to all of us, but there's no one person or one body who is responsible for saying, "Hang on, you've infringed on my prerogatives here". It's for the industry to uphold its own standards and it's for the regulator to do the rest.

  • Thank you. We'll come back to that matter in the third section of this evidence.

    May I address now the effectiveness of the current system of regulation, which I suppose itself divides into three parts: there's the issue of internal regulation within newspaper organisations, there's the issue of the general law, which is certainly addressed by Dr Moore, and that includes certain procedural or adjectival aspects including conditional fee arrangements, and then there's the issue of self-regulation or independent regulation or perhaps something different altogether.

    The first category, internal regulation, Dr Moore, you touch on that really implicitly in paragraphs 42 to 44 of your statement, which is on the internal numbering at page 7.

  • It's implicit in paragraph 44, if I've read it correctly, that the sort of systems which you are recommending here, these are internal systems, are not systems which you believe are currently in place. Is that a correct interpretation of what you're saying?

  • Yes, that's right. I mentioned at the beginning we do research and development as well as campaigning and the development side we do partly because our belief has always been that it should be, particularly in the case of trustworthiness and accuracy, it's not just the responsibility of news organisations and others, although it is their responsibility; it's also the responsibility of the public, but they need the tools in order to make the judgments as to whether something is trustworthy or not.

    So we have had three projects very, very focused on online media, specifically to try and give people more tools in which to make more informed judgments as to whether or not something is trustworthy.

    So the website is a directory of journalists that write in the UK and it's automatically updated with the articles they publish in the press and it gives some basic information about the articles themselves and, if it's provided online, the journalist. And the journalist can claim that profile and add further biographical information, and it's designed specifically to try and give someone both the opportunity to see that the person knows what they're writing about and also an ability to challenge and to contact that person, because up until we launched the site back in late 2007, it was incredibly difficult, incredibly difficult, to try and challenge someone, an individual or an organisation, when it came to inaccuracy or intrusion.

    Similarly, we've done a website called, which is specifically geared to try to help people distinguish between articles that are original and articles that are very closely based on PR copy, press copy. Again, part of the reason for that is the sourcing of articles, in online particularly, remains incredibly poor, and that's despite the fact that it's so easy now to link to original sources that I cannot understand why news organisations don't do it. Many bloggers do it, lots of other people on the Internet do it, but even now mainstream news organisations seem to have a huge reticence to link to original sources.

  • I think you're suggesting here that the PCC code, which sets out basic standards -- and we'll come to the code, I'm sure -- is not enough. One needs clearer standards of internal regulation which make it clear the procedures journalists should follow in order to create an audit trail and a discipline that sources checked, that the process is transparent, and, if necessary, accountable if an issue arises as to accuracy or intrusion, whatever it might be in due course. Is that more or less it?

  • Exactly. I think that most people, if you asked them, it makes common sense. In the first instance, if they see something that is inaccurate or intrusive or misrepresentive, the immediate reaction is to go to the author of the piece or the organisation involved and tell them. So it makes sense that they should be given the opportunity or the details to enable them to do that.

    In many cases, they're still not, and I can give you examples of that.

    We'll come to this, I know, but it seems to me that actually part of the job of the new regulator should be the oversight of the internal compliance mechanism such that it can talk about best practice, it can indicate what it thinks news organisations ought to be doing, and when they fail to do that and when they clearly are ineffective, then it can step in.

  • Is there a legitimate concern here that the regulator in this guise may be interfering with editorial comment, matters of news agenda, rather than fact, which are, after all, the exclusive province and discretion of individual papers?

  • Sorry, yes, I didn't mean to imply that, if I did.

  • You didn't, no, but I'm putting --

  • Like Onora O'Neill gave a speech in Oxford in November in which she said that really the job of a regulator should be to regulate process, not content. As soon as we start to get towards content then it starts to get -- I completely understand anxieties about censorship, et cetera, but absolutely it should be the role of the regulator to regulate process.

  • Thank you. The general law is probably too wide a topic for us sensibly to address in our 90-minute slot. You touch on this, Dr Moore, concern about abolition of CFAs in paragraph 48 of your statement. A bit later on, however, you do refer us to a New Zealand comparable and a Finnish comparable which we will look at because those may well be helpful but I hope you'll forgive me if I'm going to gloss over paragraph 48.

    Can I address now the third subheading, which is self-regulation, the existing system, the PCC. Mr Moy, section 2 of your submission, where you give us some examples, case studies I think it would be fair to describe them as --

  • -- of your dealings with both newspapers and the PCC when you have attempted to correct errors; is that right?

  • Again no doubt the same principle applies, this isn't comprehensive, it is necessarily anecdotal, but it provides us with a picture?

  • Yes, and I think that if anything it's skewed towards the fact that we are regular and increasingly experienced users of the PCC. They know who we are, we know who they are, we know how the system works and they know that we comment on them publicly. So if anything, I think we get the better end of the deal compared to the average complainant. But that's speculation.

  • The picture which emerges, and it may be invidious to alight on only one example, is that sometimes you have immediate success --

  • Is there an example of that?

  • Okay, I've overstated it. Sometimes you have a reasonable degree of success, I think immediate is putting it too high. On other occasions, it's the opposite end of the extreme, and there are some cases when there's more than one newspaper who in your view has been guilty of inaccurate statement --

  • Not in our view. They accept the inaccuracies. We've only ever had one case where our view that there was an inaccuracy has ever been not accepted.

  • Thank you. But the approach of individual newspapers to the same complaint varies?

  • Sometimes within the one complaint. We can see this at 53795 without going into the detail of it.

  • Some newspapers were prepared to accept the error reasonably speedily. Others dragged their feet. Some, I think, denied it altogether. Is that a fair characterisation?

  • Yes. In the final extreme we ended up, I think, having to get a Parliamentary Question to force the public body concerned to clarify the statement so that that position was on the record so that the newspapers would consider correcting it and then we argued for months about prominence, which I think reflects very badly on Ofsted, which was the public body involved, as much as the newspapers.

  • Thank you. I'm not going to ask about papers which in your view are particularly bad, but I am going to ask this question: are there any newspapers which in general have a positive approach to the correction of errors and therefore a reasonably satisfactory system?

  • Or do you feel that --

  • There is obviously difficulty with singling out particular newspapers in either direction. In our relatively limited experience with the Financial Times, they've been pretty constructive. You send an email, it does disappear into a black box, but you usually get a sensible response within a couple of days, so fair play to them. The Financial Times, obviously, though, is an exception among daily newspapers.

    The Guardian comes across as having a very strong set of principles in this area, and at its best it works very well. You get a considered response quickly. However, I think the Guardian's quite a good example of why readers' editors aren't a panacea, because effectively it's a single point of failure. We've had examples where perhaps the readers' editor has been ill and it's taken a couple of months to get back to us. Quite understandable. We've also have examples where issues we've raised have just dropped off the radar. So a sort of qualified endorsement, I suppose.

  • On the other hand, I certainly wouldn't accuse them of bad faith, which I think we have experienced from other newspapers.

  • As I said, it's probably invidious to go further down the ladder, see where we might be at the bottom, so I'll move on.

    Dr Moore, tab 4 and your analysis of PCC statistics, can we see where we are on this. The basic message we get, I think, from page 58774. It's the problems you have had in analysing the data.

  • Level with the upper hole punch you say:

    "There are four reasons why we can't."

    That is to say judge how well the PCC is performing.

    "The PCC only releases a small proportion of the data it captures. The PCC does not make clear the methodology by which it analyses the data. The PCC is not consistent in its definition of the data. The PCC does not have adequate processes to capture the data."

    Then you develop each of these points, starting at page 58775. Is it possible, Dr Moore, for you to give the headline messages you would wish to give under each of those four categories by reference to your report?

  • Of course. I should start by saying this report is unpublished and was submitted to the Inquiry unpublished partly because -- to give some background and context, when we published the 2009 report, one of the criticisms made about us, which had also been made about Nick Davies' book Flat Earth News and other critics, was that people had misunderstood the way in which the PCC's statistics worked and therefore could neither judge the PCC nor judge the newspapers who had either breached or not breached the code.

    We did our very best, based on the figures available. It's quite hard, because the figures available on the site are quite difficult to access, they're split up into many different chunks, and so we built the website deliberately to try and make it easier, where we scraped all the data going back to 1996 from the PCC site, it's open and publicly available, so that you can now look and see who has the most complaints against them, who has the most resolved complaints, the most upheld. You can subdivide it by clause, privacy, accuracy. So you can do what we wanted to do, which was to actually try and get an indication of accountability, which you can't do from the PCC's statistics.

    Once we had that website and the database, we thought we would do some analysis off it. We quickly found that it was extremely difficult to do that analysis because, as I say, the amount of data released is limited. So in 2010, of the over 6,000 original complaints, many of which we know fall off, the only ones available to analyse are 526, so quite a small proportion of that data.

    Even those 526, it's not a full amount, as we discovered ourselves, because quite a number of people request that their complaint doesn't go up on the website and then when they make that request, often it's taken down.

    Now, we've said to the PCC we don't think that's consistent. If the person is concerned about privacy and anonymity, then they can request their complaint be anonymised, but from the perspective of actually trying to analyse the complaints and work out what they mean, if you remove it entirely, then clearly it makes it impossible for anyone else to see that there has been a complaint on that basis against that news outlet.

    So I could go on, but essentially what we found was we could go as far as we could with the data that was available and we could give the indicative results of that data, but we would never, neither would anyone else, ever be able to properly scrutinise or make accountable the complaints body.

  • Thank you. The lack of clarity as regards methodology, that's the bottom of page 58775. You make an interesting point about the average period of time it takes to resolve a complaint, which I think in 2010 -- this was repeated in evidence to the Inquiry -- is nearly 33 days. You're not altogether comfortable with that figure, Dr Moore; is that right?

  • Well, the conversation when I met with -- not with the current director, when I met with two members of the PCC, this was what I was told. The evidence that the current director, who I speak to regularly, Stig Abell, contradicted this, I have spoken to him since and the two of us are trying to resolve what the discrepancy is.

    The difficulty from that perspective is we have no access to the data so we can't do the analysis ourselves so we're reliant on what they tell us, and this is what they told us, which is different from what Stig Abell said this week.

  • Your figure is 106 working days, which as you say is three times greater than the PCC's figure.

  • In other words the data that's available at the moment is -- it's quite hard to back it out, because you can find -- if you work at it, you can normally find the date of the original article. There is no date recorded for the complaint, but then the complaint resolution, or otherwise, is put up on the website. So the only openly available data was the original article and the resolution as per the website, that's what we measured.

    When we spoke to them about it, they completely justifiably said that's not a fair representation because actually the complaint can come in some while subsequent to the original article, the resolution often doesn't go on the website immediately that it's made -- we didn't know that, but they told us that -- so it can be much shorter than that. We said great, can you give us any information or detail to show us how much shorter, and they said no.

    Again, we're at this difficult point, and this is really the point of this was to say it's terribly difficult, particularly given the anecdotal evidence that we hear from Will and from others, many of whom say it's taken an awful long time, much longer than expected, and I'd like to say that from all my experience, the PCC secretariat have been extremely helpful, worked amazingly hard and assiduously and done the best they can. I think in many cases, certainly from people I've spoken to, the problem is with the news outlet rather than with the PCC, but --

  • I think I'm going to have to ask you to go more slowly, because I can see --

  • Sorry. But the point that we were making was, for example, if one wants to -- as Will has personally experienced -- try and find out if particular papers are obstructive and they take an awful long time to deal with complaints, that would be -- it would be very helpful to know that within the complaint statistics, because then not only would that be -- would the public know that, but then hopefully the news outlet concerned would see that and would feel embarrassed about that and would do its best to improve it. Without having the data, without knowing, it's impossible to do that.

  • It sounds as if you would wish to formulate some specific request of the PCC in relation to one particular year's worth of data, maybe 2010 would be a reasonable year to take, since you've already looked at it to some extent, and then see whether a further analysis can be undertaken. Is that correct?

  • Absolutely, and I think ironically enough when I was speaking to them about this, as I say, we were preparing this in the early half of 2011, and I spoke to them I think in May, June of 2011, they were right then preparing a new website which they said was going to detail much more of this. That has been, as I understand it, postponed, or at least pushed back because of the events of July. So I'd be very happy to sit down with them and try and work out exactly what this is.

  • Could I perhaps jump in at this point?

  • Speaking not specifically but as regular users of statistics in all forms, this seems like a fairly obvious case of call a statistician, which isn't a regular cry, but what we have is effectively two good faith efforts to produce numbers from data which are leading to widely disparate systems. That suggests either the data is bad or the methodology is bad.

    I think there's actually a good case that the data is bad, because there isn't an easy definition of many of the things that we're trying to measure here, whether you go from when the article is published or when the resolution is published or when a complaint is received to when it is dealt with.

    Perhaps quite personally taking the examples we've experienced, if you go from when a complaint is made to when an inaccuracy is accepted, and then you have a separate period of time between when the inaccuracy is accepted and the correction is printed, much of which has been taken up, sometimes months of it, by arguments about due prominence, so in trying to extract sensible statistics from this kind of quite dynamic process you need some quite clear definitions and some sensible methodology, rather than sort of firing questions at the PCC, looking to the future, I think it might be useful to involve some professional statisticians in designing a data correction process --

  • But it's worse than that, isn't it, because do I gather from what I've read that assume a complaint is rejected because it doesn't qualify, now that might be done in three days.

  • Less. Three minutes.

  • Another complaint, which actually goes through the process, takes 70 days, for example.

  • Add the two figures together and then you get an average which is 35 days but that's not representative.

  • No. Famously the average person has one testicle, but it doesn't tell you very much about people. This is one of the classic cases where -- excuse me.

  • No, I understand the justification. Probably that wouldn't apply if you talked about the average male.

  • Indeed. This is a classic case where the average isn't very useful, probably, unless there's a good reason to believe it's representative. What would be very interesting to see is how many cases take less than a week, less than two weeks, less than three weeks for frequency distribution, if you like.

  • As I say, split out by news outlets such that you can see which of these outlets are taking an awful lot longer than others.

  • How valuable would this information be, do you think, for what I'm trying to do at the moment?

  • I think to the point about -- it comes, I think, alongside the legal point, which has been made to me frequently, which is that most people want to have a prompt correction or apology. Mostly people find it very difficult to get a prompt correction or apology. There are many reasons for that. At the moment, it's often extremely hard to work out what those reasons are, because the information isn't available to work out, who is taking a long time and for what reasons.

    In that respect, yes, I think it would be very helpful to break down who takes a very long time and try and work out why that is.

  • I think my view is slightly different. I don't much care -- I think it's accepted that the PCC needs to be replaced, so raking over the pathology of exactly how it was failing isn't that interesting. What I think is essential is that any successor to the PCC has a sensible way of monitoring its effectiveness, which is pre-defined, if you like, and which provides clear warning signals if things are going wrong, clear ways of assessing its effectiveness. That may be -- I think Martin is going to say a bit blase about the past, but --

  • No, I think that's a fair point, actually. Looking forwards, it seems to me as though one of the problems that we've had is that because there aren't specific -- as I understand it, in the legal process, there are very specific dates for complying with certain aspects of the legal process when it comes particularly to defamation cases. There aren't any similar in the self-regulatory process. If there were, that might be very helpful. So, in other words, if people had to respond to certain requests within a certain timeframe, that actually would be very helpful.

  • That's one of your proposals, I think.

  • It's something we regard as absolutely vital, having been led down the merry dance far too many times.

  • Dr Moore, your assessment of the current system, we see this most clearly in section 5.2 of your 2009 report, your tab 2 of page 58849. You helpfully remind us of the recent form. You deal with the code of practice, but I'm going to cover that in a moment. System of governance on the next page. I think the point you're making there is the existing system of governance is not demonstrably independent, transparent and accountable; is that right?

  • Again, in terms of headlines, why not?

  • It should be said that the time when we said this, it was absolutely not accepted. It was not accepted by the Press Complaints Commission, who attacked the report; it was not accepted by the news industry. Many of the things that the report says are now generally accepted, not just by those outside the industry but by some of the people who have come before the Inquiry. Only yesterday, Baroness Buscombe talked at some length about problems of independence.

    One of the specific concerns we raised in the report was that it seems to us that compared to other regulatory bodies there weren't the independent mechanisms within the constituent bodies, and particularly between the Press Board of Finance. When I spoke to people from other regulatory bodies, they said that normally that would be peopled by accountants and others who would simply be working out the levy, it would be a transparent levy, a percentage of revenues, et cetera, and then distributing it to the regulatory body.

    This was and is very different. It's peopled by very senior people within the industry, who collect the finance and then distribute it. It has no transparency, despite the governance review itself of the PCC recommending that they become more transparent and put out a website; it hasn't and it didn't. So we don't know if one, in that wonderful journalistic way, follows the money, who pays how much for the system, which seems to me to go partly to the heart of where the power lies, and indeed, going by Baroness Buscombe's evidence yesterday, that's exactly the point that she made.

    In terms of transparency, we've talked a little bit about that. I can talk more.

    In terms of accountability, and this is I think one of the central points and the difference, as we saw it, between -- and still see between the mediation and regulation, is that many editors in front of this Inquiry and elsewhere have talked about how they're very proud to have only had a very limited of upheld adjudications against them. However, if you look through the cases, the complaints that have been made against them that are resolved, many of those resolved cases certainly appear to have breached the code. But, because they're resolved, there's no record of a breach kept. I suppose it's the equivalent of pleading guilty and being acquitted.

    That has a number of different effects, one of which is that it means that there is very little learning from it, so one can't -- both within the organisation and more widely in the news industry -- say this organisation is regularly breaching the code on this basis and then take action as a result.

    Then obviously from the public's perspective, they can't look at the individual organisations and see who is or is not regularly breaching the code, and I can give specific examples.

    In 2010, the analysis we did on the evidence available, just to take one example, there were 63 resolved complaints against the Daily Mail. If one goes through each of those summaries on the PCC website, it is -- in 47 cases, they clarified, collected or apologised. One wouldn't have thought they would have clarified, corrected or apologised unless there had been some breach of the code. That's absolutely arguable and I accept that, but going by that alone, 47 of 63 is quite a high number. But in terms of the upheld adjudications in 2010, there were zero.

    So from the public perspective, and indeed the way in which the paper presents itself, it has an almost unblemished record, but actually one could argue that it's breaching the code on a regular basis.

  • Yes. Thank you.

    Mr Moy, you --

  • It's likely to be the -- well, there could be two arguments. First of all, the newspaper takes the view that even if there's an argument about it, it's much better to get it right in the way that the person who is complaining wants it, and that might be seen as positive. On the other, it might be said that the more egregious the breach, the more likely it is that that will be accepted and reflected in a resolution than pursued to an adjudication. There are two possible ways of looking at it.

  • Yes. Actually, the argument has been made, not in front of this Inquiry but a number of times before, that actually part of the point of the complaints system is to resolve and not adjudicate and therefore a resolved complaint is a sign of success.

    The problem is twofold, one of which is from the perspective that the system should act in the public interest as well as in the interests of an individual member of the public. The wider public, from their perspective, see very little -- can see repetitive mistakes and repetitive breaches and apparently no action taken. The individual complainant often is given the impression: this is the best you will get.

    If I could cite one example, in late 2009, shortly after -- very shortly after Professor David Nutt was dismissed from the government after writing a report which was critical of the drugs policy, two newspapers, the Sun and the Mail, published stories about Professor Nutt. Well, actually more about his children, three children. They had a photograph of one of his sons smoking what they said was cannabis. It was factually incorrect. They'd taken the picture from his Facebook page. They showed a picture of his daughter, saying she was drunk. She wasn't, there was a lid on the bottle. And another photograph of his other son, who lived in Sweden, naked coming out of a sauna.

    They complained. As I understand it, the PCC, as usual, was extremely helpful and did the best that it could, but after much discussion, the best they could get was the removal of the articles from the website and a commitment from both papers not to publish again and a letter published in the Sun and nothing in the Mail, which was certainly from I think the perspective of the complainants and certainly from the perspective of the wider public not very helpful.

  • That creates the distinction that I've been trying to draw people out on, between what is a complaints-handling system and a regulator properly so-called.

  • Thank you.

    Mr Moy, you capture your ideas on current failings in the existing regulatory system at 53815 under our tab 13. It is it's fair to say broadly convergent with the evidence we've just heard.

  • Under the heading "The user experience", you make the point that the PCC -- some of the things it does well include the ease of making a complaint, acknowledgment, direct contact with human beings, helpful staff. You make all those points.

  • "Contrary to expectations, we haven't yet experienced the third party rule".

  • Yes, that has changed. This was written before the seminars, so probably in September, so we're slightly further down that road.

  • Thank you. Then you make some very specific points at the top of page 53816.

  • This really strikes at the heart of the issue, it may be said, so could I ask you to speak to those matters?

  • The dependence on co-operation?

  • Yes. As I think I said in my seminar talk, the user experience of the PCC is basically defined by the newspapers. The PCC to some extent acts as a postbox between the complainant and the newspaper. If the newspaper drags its feet, the PCC doesn't have the power to compel a response. If the newspaper gives a derisory response, the PCC in our experience doesn't just tell the newspaper where to get off, it puts it to the complainants and asks for a reaction.

    I know that -- or I'm told that the PCC complaints staff do work very hard behind the scenes with editors to get sort of sensible responses, but we've had cases, for example a classic case, Daily Mail, this was the week before the seminar. We had two adjudications pending on the Wednesday of that week about Daily Mail front pages. These were complaints which had been kicking around for several months. You will recall that at the beginning of that week of the seminar, Paul Dacre announced that there was going to be a page 2 corrections column, and the fact that there was now a page 2 corrections column was a major factor in the PCC adjudication deciding that it wasn't necessary for the full page front page error to have any correction featured on the front page.

    But we found out -- after the corrections column was announced, we found out that the Daily Mail was unilaterally planning to run these corrections two days before the adjudications were due to take place, because I got an email at 6.30 on a Friday evening from the PCC complaints team saying, "We've just heard from the Daily Mail that they're planning to put these in the corrections column, and as you think the corrections column is a good idea, they assume you'll agree with this".

    I obviously thought that was as massive abuse of process to circumvent the adjudication procedure like that, and to do so just at Lord Hunt's first ever meeting of the Commission I thought was really bizarre, and the PCC, rather than saying, "No, hang on, you can't do this, this is a ridiculous way to treat us", which I think they should have done, referred it to me to ask what I thought.

    Which I think absolutely sums up the weakness of the PCC in that sort of situation, and surprisingly, and alone among the Daily Mail -- the Daily Mail alone does this, as far as I know, but we've seen on several occasions them coming to the PCC the night before something is due to be published or the working day before something is due to be published with little changes to the extent that once I think we had to get them to reprint a correction properly because they'd buried it within another story. We've also seen that happen to another organisation.

    So there does seem to be a sense that newspapers can play games with the PCC and the PCC can't really do much about it. So, yeah, the PCC depends on the co-operation and frankly it doesn't get it. The PCC depends on good faith, and frankly it doesn't always get it.

  • Thank you.

    Ideas for reform now. The first subheading, I suppose, is "better internal regulation", but Dr Moore has addressed that in paragraphs 43 and 44 of his submission of page 7 on the internal numbering. I think we've probably already covered those matters, Dr Moore; is that right?

  • It's probably worth saying, actually, that one of the projects that we have -- that we did for two years was with Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his Web Science Trust and it was specifically looking at how to make -- give people greater tools to assess the trustworthiness of information, particularly news on the web, and we looked at ways in which to make the provenance of stories much clearer, both in terms of basic information like who wrote them, who they were published by and when they were published, and actually building that literally within the structure of a story using what's called metadata.

    And I think that there are, as I say here, there's an enormous opportunity to make news much more accessible, as Baroness O'Neill has spoken about, without much effort at all. We worked closely with the Associated Press on this. They integrated it into all their articles, such that now when you look at an Associated Press article on the Associated Press essential site it has a small "p" at the top which is a link to the principles to which it adheres, and that's embedded with metadata in every article they publish.

    I think there are an enormous number of things that could be done, which, as I say, many aren't at the moment. There are some very good organisations and individuals doing some of this stuff, but in general, particularly in the UK, not many.

  • Is this a matter of good practice or can it really be taken further into regulatory reform?

  • If one accepts that the future regulator ought, as much as possible, to be overseeing a system of devolved self-regulation, so organisations do have compliance mechanisms within the organisations themselves, which I think it ought to be, then I think this is relevant because at the point where a regulator -- there is a problem and a regulator has to go into an organisation and say, "What went wrong, and how and why?", without some of these mechanisms, and I agree, some of them are best practice, but without some mechanisms by which to track back, an audit trail, if you like, I think it would be much more difficult for the regulator to make an informed judgment.

  • Mr Moy, you touch on this at page 53814 under our tab 13, under the heading "The regulator is only part of a wider system for upholding standards". In the second paragraph:

    "For newspapers themselves self regulation should mean just that, journalists and papers upholding high standards themselves and the regulator should be a backstop."

    I understand that, but how are journalists and papers to uphold high standards themselves? It's a good idea, but how are we going to achieve this?

  • I find that a slightly surprising question. It's part of the definition of a journalist, it's part of most journalists' essential self-respect, that they uphold to high standards. I mean, especially in relation to accuracy. If you can find a journalist who is willing to proudly say that he's not that bothered about accuracy, then good luck to you.

  • Well, it's not that. I think it's not quite the problem. The problem has been the suggestion that the pressures on the newsroom put pressures on journalists to turn out more and more, which inevitably has an impact on the type of input they would like to put into the article.

  • Which itself can then affect the standard that they would always wish to aspire to, but sometimes can't obtain.

  • Okay, fair enough. In which case I suppose what you're drawing out there is the point that unregulated journalism isn't actually unfettered journalism. It's not just journalism where the journalist gets to do the best job they can possibly do. It's journalism where the journalist has to work within the structure that's defined for them by their company, their managers, who obviously have goals other than selflessly serving the public benefit, and perfectly properly, too. Which is one reason why we do need regulation to counteract those, if you like, market failures.

    Nonetheless, there is -- this is a matter of basic civic responsibility in a corporate level and an individual level. Getting to a point where you don't deliberately publish things that are inaccurate is not an achievement, it's square one welcome to civilisation.

    The analogy here isn't with, you know -- I'm not even sure what the analogy would be. The analogy when we're talking about things like the Express front page where they're deliberately apparently taking things out of context is with a water company putting poison in the water supply.

  • I'm not sure about that, but let's not go there. I'm prepared to accept, and I'm sure journalists would accept, that a high standard of accuracy is important. The question is how to deal with the problems that have arisen in a way that ensures that freedom of expression is not in any sense impacted adversely.

  • Okay. Can I jump in with just a small point, which is I think then you have to start making distinctions in our field of accuracy between, if you like, different types of inaccuracy. Mistakes happen. That's a normal part of journalism. That's I'm sure a normal part of the law, for that matter. Full Fact makes mistakes, all national newspapers make mistakes. That's not about this.

  • That's why the Court of Appeal exists.

  • Well, indeed, yes, and the Supreme Court, of course.

  • But we have to include in our sense of what accuracy means making corrections when necessary, and in fact that's exactly what clause 1 of the code does, and that's the right answer to what happens as a natural part of the pressures of being busy journalists dealing with complex topics to tight deadlines. Those kind of mistakes, absolutely, the answer is corrected, move on. You haven't done something terrible, you just need to serve your audience by printing a correction.

    The kind of things where there is a sense that there is a recklessness or a wilfulness about the inaccuracy, that's where I do object, that's where I really do think it is poisoning the news supply.

  • I understand the distinction and that's a very, very important distinction. Obviously, the complaints that you make about the mismatch between headlines and material or other egregious errors of fact fall very squarely within what should be a "regulated" -- and I'll put that word in inverted commas before somebody says I've gone somewhere -- world. But one has to make sure that one doesn't create a system that inhibits freedom of expression.

  • As an uncovenanted consequence of trying to cope with the problems to which you refer.

  • Absolutely, and if I could add to the previous point, I don't want to sound too much like an evangelist in the sense that the Internet has all the answers, but at the very least, one of the things that there is an opportunity now, which there wasn't before, is for enormously more transparency and accountability in the sense of being transparent about the sources of articles and being accountable in a sense of making it easy for people to indicate if there are mistakes or to indicate that there has been some form of misrepresentation.

    Unfortunately, there are not many big mainstream organisations that are doing this. There are many smaller organisations and individuals who are, but in the main, many of the big organisations, bizarrely in my view because it seems to me to actually enhance their credibility and their accountability, but very few of them have adopted most of these.

  • I think just picking up on the freedom of speech point, I don't see effective regulation as opposed to freedom of speech and I think that terror sounds far larger in theory than it is when it's practised by people with goodwill and sensible intentions and when you start looking at specific examples, I think it becomes clearer and less terrifying.

    But one of the answers to the freedom of speech problem is that part of the right way to deal with this is for ideas to be contested for a civil society, which I mentioned on the page of my submission that we're on at the moment, to be active in challenging misinterpretations in public life.

    As you've heard, that's largely not true. Civil society currently doesn't feel able to or doesn't feel invited to or doesn't feel a responsibility to be challenging misleading claims in public life. That's something that needs to be understood as to why that might be happening, and if we got to a stage where that was corrected, I think we'd be a lot further on in having a dynamic society, if you like, where the kind of interplay of pressures works out for the best.

  • The next subheading is "Changes to the legal framework", which I think we're going to have to just touch on. Dr Moore, paragraphs 58 to 64 in particular, page 10 on the internal numbering, where you draw attention to some continental examples and a Commonwealth example.

    The Finnish example we may have to look at in some detail because on the face of it, it looks quite interesting. Obviously the Irish example we're getting evidence on and the New Zealand example will be available no doubt online for us to consider.

  • Can I make one point about the New Zealand example because one of the reasons I think it's particularly interest, it's a very recent report in December so it takes into account some of the things that have been happening in this country.

    One of the ways in which I was impressed they looked at it was rather than thinking about the constraints on journalism and some of the arguments that have been made about this Inquiry necessarily being about constraining free press and free speech, they look at it really from an entirely different direction and they say: how can we expand, how can we give the privileges that are currently given to mainstream journalism to anyone who is doing journalism? And they talk particularly about the legal privileges, but they cite other ones as well.

    As part of that, they start almost from ground zero. They say what is the news media and how do we define it and once we've defined it, then how can we make that definition encompass all those who want to contribute to the fourth estate and to this sphere?

  • Thank you. The essential ingredients of a desirable regulatory framework, Dr Moore first of all, page 11 of your report, paragraphs 66 to 70, you are not comfortable with the notion of a full statutory regulator, that is understood. But you say in paragraph 67:

    "... some statutory basis will be necessary in order to incentivise or require news organisations to participate ... to provide the necessary powers to oversee and enforce the code and provide for independence."

    So you're drawing a distinction there between framework and procedure and substance, and you're making it clear that the statutory regulator would not be involved in matters of substance, namely what the standards should be. Is that correct?

  • That's correct. I think this requires a little bit of context in that the Media Standards Trust which formed a review group to write this report in 2009 has formed a very similar review group with many of the similar people participating, specifically to look at and detail evidence-based recommendations for a new system, and is planning to do that in May of this year. So these are necessarily initial thoughts around that.

  • When you say planning to do that in May, planning to publish it in May?

  • Sorry, submit it to the Inquiry and publish it more widely, but certainly submit it.

    We're doing some research specific to that, which we'd be happy to put in beforehand, in relation to some of the mechanisms people have already talked about, particularly around the infamous sticks and carrots, so looking, for example, at the question of VAT, zero-rating and understanding (a) if it's even possible and (b) what it actually means in terms of the amounts --

  • For what it's worth, the provisional views that I've received are that it is not possible to distinguish between different types of identical provision namely a newspaper that might satisfy certain conditions above others for VAT purposes.

  • Thank you. We've received different advice, some of which has said that if they can distinguish between a cake and a biscuit, then they can distinguish between different newspapers. I believe there are European precedents for distinguishing between -- for example, I think it's it in Belgium and Denmark, they can distinguish between different types of publication, but I thank you for your advice --

  • I'm not giving you advice, I'm merely telling you what I have been told, because it won't surprise you that when this idea was first suggested, my immediate question was: does this work as a matter of law? If you have some advice that says that it does work as a matter of law, I would be very interested in seeing it.

  • May I ask, if it's not impertinent, whether the Inquiry will be publishing that advice?

  • I've not got formal material yet. I just needed to know whether this was a route down which I should go.

  • I have absolutely no doubt that it is going to have to be addressed by the Inquiry, and it will be addressed with chapter and verse. So that requires European law and domestic tax law.

  • Dr Moore, you make it clear in paragraph 68 that for reasons of principle and practicality you'd favour a voluntary system in the first instance and the purpose of the statutory basis is some sort of backstop if people do not participate. Have I correctly understood it?

  • Voluntary for reasons of principle and practicality. It seems to us that in a digital world, it's both extremely undesirable in principle to try and compel people to be part of the system and very difficult in practice to work out (a) where you draw the line around them and (b) what do you do about those people who sit outside the line and refuse to -- or refuse to come in, and I think there it seems to us you quite quickly get into a pseudo licensing system, which we think would be a very bad idea, when you're telling people if they're not coming in the system that they can't publish, and I think that would be very detrimental to free speech.

    However, if one accepts that and one accepts that the system has to be voluntary, then one necessarily has to start thinking how to make it incentivised enough that people -- the people that you want to be inside are inside, and that's where it comes, I think, necessarily, to thinking about both non-statutory and statutory mechanisms to try and make it carroty enough.

  • But there would have to be statutory mechanisms if -- and one of the examples or possibilities that I've discussed is recognising in court the views of a regulator, a system of regulation, whether as to benefit or as to avoiding the risk of exemplary damages. There are lots of possibilities.

  • But that would require, unless you're going to tell me something different, it seems to me it would require some form of statute around it, otherwise I don't see how a court or adjudicator could take it into account.

  • No, I agree, but I think that there are statutory mechanisms which can be incentives and non-statutory ones as well. So the three levers, as I see it, that one can pull, one is legal, which is around possible recognition within law such that it's taken into account or even possibly separate tribunal; the second is fiscal, and VAT is one but there are others that have been suggested around advertising; and the third is around the access to information, which was brought up by Mr Dacre earlier this week.

    It seems to me that those are the three levers, and how one pulls them, I entirely agree, particularly the first time, require some sort of statutory basis. The third perhaps less so.

  • But what you're saying is this isn't statutory regulation at all; this is recognition in a statute of a different type of system.

  • Exactly, like in Ireland in Section 44 of the Defamation Act.

  • But the critical thing about that would be that the statute would have to identify what it is recognising.

  • Yes, as it does in some detail in the Irish Defamation Act.

  • I understand, I understand, I understand.

  • Mr Moy, your evidence only touches on this.

  • We'll be submitting further evidence for modules three and four.

  • Thank you very much. But is there anything you would like to say at this stage? You touch on it on page 53819, where you refer to privileges which are only justified for those outlets with a demonstrated commitment to press standards, but no doubt you'd wish to elaborate on that in writing in due course, as you've indicated.

  • Yes. I think sort of the logic of that to some extent perhaps speaks for itself. The main thing we'd say about statutory regulation at the moment is, to coin a phrase, we agree with Lord Justice Leveson that it's been a bit dismal watching a sort of binary debate between statutory and non-statutory when that seems fairly useless.

    We have, as Lord Justice Leveson has noted, statutory judicial appointments, a statutory guarantee of judicial independence, we have a statutory guarantee of academic freedom. The people who safeguard the people who are in mental health detention are a statutory body, and that liberty, that freedom, is just as important as freedom of the press and those people are far more vulnerable than newspaper editors and proprietors. So it's simplistic to simply say anything involving statute is terrible, and it would be helpful to have a debate about how we achieve the required ends that reflects that, and that certainly is what we're thinking about at the moment.

    The other point that came up I think in Lord Grade's evidence, he was very worried about exposure to judicial review. In our conversations with the PCC, we have always been told that they accept that they are subject to judicial review, and we've asked on several occasions. I don't know if you asked them that question yourselves. But they have never, I know, admitted it in court and I know it has never been decided by --

  • I did ask them that question and the answer was possibly somewhat confidential. That's why I didn't go down that road. I asked that question behind the scenes.

  • On the law, I'm likely to be able to work that out myself.

  • I'm sure. But their point being that they have accepted it, at least in what they have said to us. It seems a slightly strange worry to put people off statutory regulation, if that was indeed Lord Grade's principal objection.

    Nonetheless, it would be much preferable to see a system which kept politicians away from regulating the press as far as possible, and we look forward to seeing what the industry comes up with.

  • Thank you. Mr Moy, you have some ideas in relation to the code of practice at 53818.

  • You rightly point out that it's a strong document in many ways, but there are particular areas which give rise to concern. Some of these areas have been constant themes in the evidence adduced before this Inquiry.

  • The due prominence issue, which might need to be more prescriptive; is that right?

  • I think you'll find a much more helpful guide to our view on the Editors' Code in our submission at tab 16.

  • Which is our answer to your 12 questions.

  • 54643 is the beginning of that answer. Obviously our expertise in the code of practice is specific to clause 1. On the other hand, that's the vast majority of what the PCC does. You've heard, I think, on several occasions about the code of practice is a strong document. The people who think that are, with respect, wrong. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to think, but you only think it when you look at it theoretically.

    From the point of view of people who actually have to make complaints under the code, it's an obscure document and a very hard one to work with, so when you ask a group of academics are these basically the right principles, then they say yes, and quite reasonably, they're absolutely right. But when you try to work with it in practice, it's actually very tricky.

    Before I go on to what's missing from it, if you look at all the key concepts in clause 1, misleading and distorted, completely undefined and don't seem to be interpreted particularly consistently. There's no explicit burden of proof, it's not clear where the burden of proof lies. In our experience, the burden of proof has always lain on the complainant, not on the newspaper, which is contrary to what is said in the Editors' Code book, which frankly bears very little relation to how the code seems to be interpreted in practice.

    There is no standard of proof. I think this is a fairly extraordinary lapse. So when the PCC is asked to make adjudications, all of that is sort of left hanging, and the adjudications without those concepts being clear can't possibly be clear themselves, and I think even the PCC probably finds this a difficult feature, and certainly we've never found their adjudications clear and I think that's the reason why.

    So we have put in a submission to the current review of the Editors' Code saying that clause 1 needs to be overhauled, not because it's driving at the wrong things, it's absolutely not, but because actually in practice it's rather obscure and rather difficult to work with.

  • One has to be a bit careful one doesn't create the Maltese penal code. That's not showing a disrespect --

  • The what, sorry?

  • I'm not showing a disrespect to Malta, but the point I'm making is that one doesn't want a document that is so complex because it's covering each and every possibility that it isn't really possible to navigate through for the public.

  • No, absolutely, but equally a document that specifies neither the burden nor the standard of proof is pretty hard to work with in practice.

  • You make other points. I'm now on 53818 in relation to headlines, which is a point we have been exploring.

  • And then you say:

    "A persistent practice of running stories that are inaccurate with a final very late paragraph which effectively invalidates the story", and there have been examples of that put before the inquiry.

  • What's known as the paragraph 19 problem, common enough to have its own name. But what that highlights is the lack of a positive duty in clause 1 of the code.

    What we don't have in the code is an expectation that the role of journalism is to provide its readers with the best available version of the truth, which is a phrase in common use among journalists, and absolutely the right expectation for what journalists should strive to do. And when we're assessing accuracy, we should be asking the question of have we here succeeded in providing the best available version of the truth, and we should have that as our ambition.

    If you had that in place, of course paragraph 19 would be a clearcut case. What you've effectively done is a sleight of hand there. You're playing tricks. You're saying here's an exciting story and then you're saying at the end well actually no it's not. That may not be inaccurate within the purely negative terms of current code of practice, but it is nonetheless failing to inform your audience and if that was the expectation set forward in clause 1, then a lot of these playing tricks, playing to the letter of the law rather than to the spirit of the law, would go. Would be very easily dealt with.

    I think time and time again, our frustration with the existing system is that it seems to assume good faith on the part of newspapers which just isn't there.

  • Thank you. In terms of --

  • Sorry, I should qualify that, I noticed a raised eyebrow, quite rightly: which just isn't there in some cases. You can't rely on it being there.

  • Yes. Bottom of page 53816, tab 13, Mr Moy, you make some suggestions about what a regulator should be able to do: Impose deadlines for responses?

  • Yeah, I'm with Martin on that.

  • Tackle abuse of its processes, maximise the transparency of its process. You deal with burden and standard of proof issues which you've touched on. Pursue an inaccuracy even without a member of the public willing to argue through the rounds with the newspaper. This is the third-party issue?

  • Absolutely vital. I can't stress this enough. If a newspaper has been told that there's a serious problem with a headline and a regulator is aware of this, the fact that the complainant then goes away doesn't mean that the problem has gone away, it doesn't mean that the disservice to the audience has gone away and increasingly with online publication it doesn't mean that the article has gone away either. The idea that the regulator just -- well, it's not a regulator, this is the essential point of it not being a regulator. A regulator would pursue the problem. A complaint-handling body pursues the complaint.

  • Can I just ask you to address the penultimate bullet point:

    "Reject newspapers' proposed resolutions as insufficient in the public interest."

  • What happens if the complaint is about privacy rather than inaccuracy? I know you're primarily concerned with inaccuracy, but why isn't a resolution of a privacy complaint one which is in the public interest to resolve consensually rather than by an adjudication?

  • I didn't say it wasn't. We're suggesting this as a power they should have, not something they should do with a swinging axe. What we have in mind is cases we've been through where the first offer you get is, "We'll amend the headline online only". Then you get the offer of "We'll print a letter from Full Fact disagreeing with our article but we won't change the article or admit there was anything wrong with it". Then you get page 12, then you get page 6, then you get page 4, then you get page 2. All of this, rounds and rounds of correspondence, weeks between them, takes forever, deeply tiring. And all of this, of course, after the actual inaccuracy has been accepted. At this stage, you're just arguing over prominence.

    You've already talked about the PCC should just be able to say, "This is how prominent it should be". Maybe that's the right answer, but at the very least they ought to be able to reject derisory offers.

    I should highlight in that sequence the letter because the code says you have to correct inaccuracies. A letter from somebody else disagreeing with your article isn't correcting an inaccuracy, even though it's routinely accepted as a method of correcting a general inaccuracy.

  • You're going to have to slow down. I know we're reaching the end of our allotted slot, but I'm afraid you are going too fast now.

  • A letter isn't a correction. It's just a letter.

  • Dr Moore, I know you wish to elaborate these issues further in another submission, but you touch on the principles, just so that we know where we are in the final page of your statement, and you probably don't wish to speak to those, you want to do so in a more considered written submission in due course in relation to module four; is that right?

  • That's true, but I suppose one thing that we didn't -- we touched on regulation, but one of the key points that I tried to make in this submission was that it seems to me that there are two slightly overlapping but separate roles that I hope the Inquiry will look at, one of which is around initiating genuine reform as to the legal framework and the second is about the regulatory framework.

  • On the first, I think it's just extremely important to continue to emphasise that there is an opportunity and a need to defend journalism in the public interest better than it currently is and that means defending it better within the law. I think by doing that not only does one protect good journalism and good journalists. Actually, you also start to better define the line between the public and the private, and which is where I think we're hopefully going to get to.

  • Thank you very much.

    Each of you is proposing stronger sanctions for the regulatory body. That might be said goes without saying?

  • So is the industry. I think that's now uncontroversial.

  • I don't think it's necessary to go into that. And Mr Moy, you've put in a helpful submission on the Internet, which again I'm afraid we never were going to have time to go into but have carefully read.

    Finally, Dr Moore, I should make it clear I've received several questions from another core participant. I'm going to make the executive decision, unless I'm overruled, that I'm not going to ask you to deal with those now, since it would take frankly too long and may or may not be helpful, but what I am going to ask you to do, if you're prepared to do it, is to address these questions in writing and if it's necessary to deal with them other than by putting in further written evidence from you we'll consider that. Are you content with that course?

  • Have you raised it with the core participant?

  • I haven't, no. It's right to say I haven't. I was hoping to leave some time.

  • Can I interrupt. I think I should identify myself.

  • I kept you anonymous.

  • That's fine, but obviously the answers will be published --

  • I think that's quite a useful idea. Does that conclude?

  • It does. I am conscious of the fact I should have left some time to deal with Mr Caplan's points, but I haven't, and therefore --

  • Can I just make one last point?

  • I'm sorry to intrude on your time.

  • I feel we should emphasise that real harm is done by points of general inaccuracy, and I know the Inquiry has largely focused on individual named and nameable victims, but we see not just the harmful effects on policy and government making decisions which perhaps it might otherwise not make if better information was put in front of it, and not just the effect in terms of spreading cynicism and unwillingness to engage in public life, but also real damage apparently being done, real hurt being felt by groups of people, and while it's not our job to bang that drum, I thought that needed to be mentioned and I don't think anyone else is going to do it.

  • I think they have, actually.

  • I mention that for a specific reason, which is that we will always prioritise freedom of speech over a rigorous commitment to accuracy, of course we will. We're an organisation that exists to take part in the severe contest of ideas and to, if you like, be the free speech remedy to inaccuracy. But perhaps when you're wondering where is the balance between the two, it is slightly nudged further over when you realise that inaccuracies do do real harm, more than perhaps we recognise as we become increasingly inured and cynical to misleading use of information in public life.

  • Yes. I don't think it's fair to say we've not thought about inaccuracy. I'm not suggesting you were quite saying that. Because indeed some of the groups who have come to give evidence have focused on rock solid inaccuracy. But I'm very conscious that inevitably those who are complaining about the work of the press were really complaining about individual circumstances rather than generic issues.

  • So I do have the point. Thank you.

  • May I raise two final points?

  • The first is that I sincerely hope that the Inquiry does take the opportunity for positive and radical change, not just in terms of better protecting the public, but in better protecting journalism in the public interest.

    The second is a plea to not accept as a fait accompli the recommendations necessarily of others, ourselves included. We have and are still doing research on the history of this and I know you've referred to it a number of times in the past, but it does seem to me as though there is a really rather significant danger that the Inquiry, if not extremely careful, could go down a very similar path to the three Royal Commissions and the Calcutt review of the last 60 years.

  • That is constantly in my mind, Dr Moore.

    I have two issues to raise, very shortly. The first is a refrain that I've received from several editors is: "Well, the answer for the public is very simple. They don't need to buy the newspaper. And they show by buying the newspaper that they like what we do and the way we do it". I would be interested for your comments on that. And then I have one other question for you, but if you have any comment on that, I'd be interested to receive it.

  • Two. The first is that it seems to me as though the argument that the public buy it and therefore it's okay seems to me to be rather moot when one looks at what happened when the public found out how the stories were gathered in July and a paper closed within four days. I think if there was an awful lot more transparency, the public might feel very different about the product they were buying, in the same way one feels about the food you're buying in the supermarket according to the label that's on the food. I think there is an argument there.

    The second is that in the five and a half years that I've been doing this, one of the things that struck me is that people of course care about the gas bill and they care about the day-to-day things in their lives and people around them. They don't -- entirely understandably they don't notice media coverage per se until it's of direct relevance to themselves or people close to them when it is -- it can be enormously damaging, not just hurtful, but materially damaging to them personally. But in the main, most people, thankfully, never experience that, never go through that.

  • All right. Do you want to comment on that?

  • I endorse what Dr Moore has said. I'd also point out, as I just did, that the damage that newspapers and anyone who commands mass attention can do isn't limited to the people who read them.

  • All right. My second question is this: have either of your organisations met Lord Hunt?

  • Yes. Lord Hunt invited myself and our chair, Roger Graef, to meet him and Stig Abell, I think it was November. It was before he had devised the plan that he has now, but to discuss openly some of the thoughts that we had and some of the possible models that will emerge.

  • Could I ask you both to continue that dialogue with Lord Hunt and I will ask him to do the same.

  • We haven't met him.

  • No. I met Stig Abell and heard about the proposals earlier last month, but I haven't met Lord Hunt, although I know one of my trustees has talked to him.

  • I've made it abundantly clear that this solution, whatever it comes to, has to work for all the reasons, Dr Moore, that you've just mentioned. That means it has to work for the industry, but it also has to work -- I've said it has to work for me, rather grandly representing the public, but your organisations have both thought about these issues for many years and will have very developed views and perspectives which are for me forming rather than formed, and I am sure that the product will be better for your input than without it.

  • If I may briefly respond to that, because our expertise is how the system works in detail, and at the moment I would say what we've heard from Lord Hunt isn't structurally flawed, but I think at the moment there's a greater chance that the details get worked out in a way that will completely fail than there is that they will be worked out in a productive way.

  • I think I said either to Lord Hunt or Lord Black that the devil was indeed in the detail. But this is an iterative process for return to the Inquiry and all I'm saying is I'd be grateful if your organisations were involved in these iterations.

  • Thank you very much. We'll take a break.

  • (A short break)

  • Sir, good morning. Our next witness is Carla Buzasi.

  • Sir, may I very briefly and in a noncontroversial way return to the agenda tomorrow afternoon?

  • One procedural matter first, please. Would it please be your order that Mr Dacre's supplementary statement can now be published --

  • Thank you very much.

    The second matter, please, is this, I'm not asking for a ruling, just my understanding, and that is that tomorrow he is coming back to deal with the "mendacious smear" matter, the Mail on Sunday story concerning the plummy-voiced executive and the allegation of phone hacking by Mr Grant. I say that because it's in everybody's interests that Mr Dacre has had the opportunity to look at any material that is necessary for tomorrow afternoon.

  • Yes, that's as I understand it, and I notice Mr Crossley is nodding.

  • Nodding. And that the material which he needs to look at and refresh his memory about are his own statements, Mr Grant's statements and Ms Hartley's statements. If there is any other material, I would be very grateful to have the opportunity to see it, in case he needs to access anything else, and I do ask Mr Crossley to let me know if possible, please, by lunchtime.

  • There were some other statements I think submitted, but I am sure that that will be thought about during the course of the morning. Thank you very much indeed.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

  • The only thing I would add is if Mr Grant's statement could also be published.

  • Yes. I think I actually did say that, but it was quite late. Right.