News sites ‘should show Press Complaints Commission logo’

British news websites should display a ‘type of kitemark’ or logo to indicate they adhere to Press Complaints Commission (PCC) guidelines, the head of journalism’s self-regulatory agency has said.

PCC director Tim Toulmin said that the current debate over trust in broadcasting, sparked by the premium phone-in scandal, necessitated a multimedia standard to restore faith.

“It will not be enough to subscribe to a system of regulation. It will be as important to publicise that fact, and brand products accordingly,” Mr Toulmin wrote in this morning’s Independent.

“The PCC has said before that it will encourage more newspaper websites to make clear that they abide by the press Code of Practice, which includes rules on accuracy, privacy and news-gathering. Doing so is in the interests of everyone: the website in question, the Commission, and most importantly the person who may wish to complain.

“In Australia, publications have begun voluntarily using a type of logo or kitemark on their sites to show that they subscribe to the press code. Advertising their own responsibility in this manner is one way for publications to capitalise on the benefits of self-regulation and reinforce to consumers why they can trust the product.”

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger last week told a House of Lords committee investigating the communications market that the PCC “rarely intervenes” to punish transgressions of its code, a system of self-regulation designed to stave off formal press legislation.

But Mr Toulmin said a kitemark-like logo would bring “economic benefits” to the online newspaper industry because international readers would appreciate British efforts to indicate trustworthiness.

He added the commission had seen an increase in complaints from outside of the UK because websites allied to newspapers had made it possible for overseas interests to attempt to influence domestic reporting and policy.