Regional Newspaper Journalists Maintain Highest Standards of Their Profession; as the Leveson Inquiry Continues Its Investigations into Media Regulation, Lord Hunt, the New Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Tells PADDY SHENNAN His Views on Regional Newspapers
Byline: PADDY SHENNAN
FORMER Cabinet minister Lord Hunt knows a thing or two about newspapers, having written for them and - more often - having been written about by them constantly during his many decades in public life.
And now, as the newly appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, he is at the forefront of helping to craft and create a confident future for this nation's newspapers - at a time when they are under enormous scrutiny.
Baron Hunt of Wirral, who represented the Wirral constituency as a Conservative MP between 1976 and 1997, was particularly keen to praise the great value and importance of regional newspapers during an exclusive interview.
He said: "The editors' code of practice says all members of the Press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards and, as far as I am concerned, the regional Press has always done that.
"I have known many individuals in the regional Press and they always do maintain the highest professional standards. I don't think in my 35 years in Parliament I have come across any instance where anyone fell below those standards.
"The first section title in the code of practice is accuracy - that's key - and I see all of the provisions in the code as being part and parcel of, and in the genes and fabric of, the being of the regional Press."
And he added: "When you look back at all the key stories that have developed, they had their origin, usually, in regional papers."
In the light of the phone-hacking scandal that enveloped and then brought down Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, there have been calls from some for the self-regulatory PCC to be replaced by a statutory body - something that Lord Hunt believes would have grave consequences for our society, even though he, himself, has been on the receiving end of harsh Press treatment during his career.
Themanwho served asamember the the of the Cabinet during both Margaret Thatcher's and John Major's administrations said: "I've always had fair treatment from local newspapers, but the nationals do tend to carry very critical pieces when you are in public life."
And yet he insisted: "I have always believed passionately in the freedom of the Press. People often forget that our free Press is one of this country's greatest assets and is envied across the world.
"I don't want the state and I don't want politicians interfering with freedom of expression. I attended a meeting where people were arguing for state regulation and I just asked them to think 'Who would be applauding?' When they didn't answer I said our Chinese cousins would be delighted if we were to introduce state regulation."
But he quickly to added: "While it's a right, freedom of expression carries with it a heavy responsibility. …