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Regional editors defend press watchdog

Regional newspaper editors have defended the role of the Press Complaints Commission as the 2011 Society of Editors conference got under way this morning.

The opening session of the two-day conference focused on the future of the press watchdog which has been called into question by the phone-hacking affair.

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards, which opens today, is expected to recommend a new system of press regulation, after Prime Minister David Cameron described the PCC as “ineffective and institutionally conflicted.”

But Hull Daily Mail editor Neil Hodgkinson and South Wales Argus editor Gerry Keighley were among those defending the PCC, saying it works well for the regional press.

Neil said that the PCC’s editors’ code of conduct was drilled into every young journalist at his newspaper.

Said Neil: “We do take the PCC seriously and always have. I don’t think there is a problem with the PCC. 

“From a regional point of view it has always worked well for us. We know how far to go because of it.”

Neil added that there had been a ‘knee jerk reaction’ to the phone hacking scandal in the whole industry but there was no proof that it was widespread.

Said Neil: “There is no gap between regional journalists and our audience. As an industry we don’t defend ourselves enough.”

Gerry Keighley, editor of the South Wales Argus said there was a big difference between the national and regional press and they needed to be regulated separately.

He said  echoed last week’s comments by former regional editor Neil Fowler in which he described phone-hacking as a distraction from the bigger economic issues facing the regional press industry. 

Said Gerry:  “There is a strong case for separate regulation for the regional press and for the national press.  We have a completely different agenda. 

“Survival is our main issue at the moment, and, as Neil Fowler said, this is a distraction.”