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

All right. Well, I've just listed two areas where I did have my doubts but I have one suggestion to make -- and I need to stress that I'm not making this on behalf of PressBoF. You know, I'm really not, and I'm not making it on behalf of the NPA or the Editors' Code Committee because this is my own idea, I haven't discussed it with any people -- I say it's my idea; it's an idea that we're been thinking about at Associated.

As you've said, there have been several calls to your Inquiry for the licensing of journalists. It is clearly unacceptable. However, I do believe there's an opportunity to build on existing haphazard press card system -- there are 17 bodies at the moment providing these cards -- by transforming it into an essential kite mark for ethical and proper journalism. The key would be to make the cards available only -- only -- to members of print news-gathering organisations or magazines who have signed up to the new body and its code.

The public at large would know the journalists carrying such cards are bona fide operators, committed to a set of standards and a body to whom complaints can be made. Reporters and photographers would use the cards as proof that they are responsible journalists.

There would, however, be universal agreement that briefings and press conferences by government bodies, local authorities and the police, access to sporting, royal and celebrity events, material from the BBC and ITV, and information from medical and scientific bodies would only, only be given to accredited journalists. It would, after all, be in the interests of those bodies to agree to this, as many of their members make complaints to the PCC. Indeed, such bodies would have -- or shouldn't have access to the new regulator if they dealt with a non-accredited journalist.

It is my considered view that no publisher could survive if its reporters and writers were barred from such vital areas of journalistic interest. It would be part of the civil contract, if you like, that the ombudsman figure would have the right to recommend that accredited journalists guilty of gross malfeasance have their press cards cancelled, as the GMC strikes off doctors.

I think the beauty of the system, the attraction of the system, is it will be the newspaper industry registering and disciplining journalists, not the state. There would be no threat to freedom of opinion, because non-press card holders would still have the freedom to express their views, and commercial interest would dictate that every publisher signed up to regulation.

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