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

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.

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