Another scandal. Another U-turn. Another week in coalition government.
Just four months ago, Home Office minister James Brokenshire told the House of Commons that “we believe that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) acts as an effective check on the industry and in reinforcing the standards expected”. That statement looks increasingly questionable as still more senior tabloid journalists are arrested and then bailed at Her Majesty’s leisure.
Meanwhile, the advertising industry and its regulators have been on trial recently too. Prime minister David Cameron, a former PR man for Michael Green’s unpopular Carlton Television, opined that marketers were “irresponsible in pursuit of growth”. This was following an inquiry led by Mothers Union boss Reg Bailey into advertising aimed at children after which Cameron promised to “crack down on irresponsible advertising and marketing, especially to children”.
The intimation, surely, was that independent self regulation as administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) wasn’t doing its job properly, so Cameron, primus inter pares, must intervene.
Intriguing then, that the Prime Minister is now looking to the system of advertising regulation to clean up the British press. In his statement to the House on Wednesday he indicated that press regulation should not be statutory, nor run directly by press barons.
Andrew Grice has recently reported that Cameron is impressed by the ASA model, and that the PM is looking to the sytem of advertising regulation for any future press watchdog.
Advertising rules are written and maintained by an industry body (the Committee of Advertising Practice) but independently administered by the ASA. Its Council, based in High Holborn, London, is two-thirds layman.
It would seem that the Prime Minister has spent rather a lot of time in the last 18 months railing against a regulatory system he now sees as the solution to the woes laid bare by the activities of some members of his weekend Chipping Norton set, such as horse-riding pal Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International.
Cameron is good about putting a fine gloss on things (as you’d expect from Michael Green’s former PR man, and, boy, did Green need a bit of gloss).
But does he ever think about anything first?