New code required for journalists, says Jenkins

A NEW ethical and editorial code should be established for journalists, according to a report by the former head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland, plus chair of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission.

Says Blair Jenkins – in the report published by ‘policy influencers’, Carnegie UK Trust – a new regulatory framework for the press is needed, but one that is independent of both government and the newspaper industry.

The system should be voluntary, he suggests, but with very strong incentives for joining. For instance, only participating news outlets would obtain the benefits of press accreditation and recognition, the arrangements which give journalists privileged access and facilities at important places and events.

As Jenkins – a Carnegie Fellow – points out in an op ed, on allmediascotland: “The work of regulation is largely that of eliminating various forms of bad behaviour, whereas the public interest also requires positive actions in support of good journalism. Tougher regulation on its own is not enough.”

Other recommendations in his report include:

· The maintenance or strengthening of public service broadcasting to ensure that not all news ventures are commercially driven;

· Civil society organisations offering help to fund new initiatives to ensure greater quality and diversity of news sources;

· A renewed emphasis in journalism education and training on professional ethics, including a clear commitment to understanding and upholding the public interest;

· Extending the availability and take-up of high-speed broadband to enable universal access to a wide range of digital news; and

· Industry regulators, universities, civil society organisations and the news media should encourage more public debate around media ethics and behaviour.

Continues Jenkins: “Journalism is based on trust and integrity and that needs to be reflected in a new industry-wide code of conduct. It should be inspiring and authentic for all journalists, but also sufficiently clear and reassuring for the public who depend upon those journalists for reliable news and information.

“The independent regulatory system proposed for the press would strike a new balance. You only get the many benefits of being a serious news operation if you also live up to the obligations. If you want the accreditation that gets you special access to the big stories, you have to sign up to decent and reasonable standards.”

The report will be forwarded as a formal submission to the the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.