The National Union of Journalists is facing a backlash from members and possibly mass resignations after appearing to back statutory regulation of the press.
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet is giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on press standards this afternoon.
In her written submission to the inquiry, she pours cold water on plans for a beefed up Press Complaints Commission to regulate the industry and says “some form of statutory regulation is now inevitable.”
She also says that the union’s experience in the broadcasting sector, which is policed by Ofcom, suggests that “regulation supported by statute is not of itself damaging.”
Michelle’s comments are already provoking a backlash on Twitter from senior journalists.
Journalism professor and former Scotsman editor Tim Luckhurst threatened to tear up his union membership card over the issue.
He tweeted: “If the NUJ backs statutory regulation of the press I shall resign my membership…I hope thousands will join me.”
Croydon Guardian assistant editor Matthew Knowles said: “Has @NUJ committed suicide by calling for statutory regulation of the press? Don’t remember that one going for a vote.”
Earlier today PCC chairman Lord Hunt set out plans for a beefed-up version of the existing watchdog with power to fine newspapers who breach the editor’s code up to £1m.
But inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson indicated he was far from convinced by the idea and the NUJ submission appears to heap ridicule on it.
“It is the very structure of the PCC as an industry-fostered self-regulatory body that has led to its failure. Self regulation has been given every possible chance to work in many different forms over the past 40 years and has failed the test every time,” wrote Michelle.
“For the reasons given above, the NUJ does not believe that a rebranding – the PCC Mark 2 that is often referred to – would do anything other than repeat (yet again) all the past mistakes that have been made.
“Whilst the NUJ is hugely disappointed that we have reached this point, despite more than 20 years of campaigning for reform of the PCC and press regulation, we now see it as inevitable that there should be some statutory provision for a new regulator.
“All our experience in broadcasting, including the last eight years with Ofcom, shows that regulation supported by statute is not of itself damaging.”