The Press Compaints Commission [PCC] is a body which is 'failing' Jonathan Coad, head of the litigation group at Swan Turton Solicitors told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in its first hearing of a review into press standards, privacy and libel.

Press corrections are inadequate Coad said, illustrating his point by waving copy of a tabloid newspaper carrying front page allegations about Peaches Geldof's sexual behaviour.

Following complaints against the article, a correction was made which was 2.6 per cent of the size of the original article and appeared on page two of the newspaper, he said.

"The newspaper agreed - as they could do no other - that the story was inaccurate but what they wouldn't do was put the correction on the front page," said Coad.

Corrections favour newspaper groups rather than a complainant or the general public, he added. The PCC is in 'favour of those who set it up in the first place' Coad said.

"If you have a regulatory body which has a sole sanction which is publishing correction and apologies and time after time they flunk that in favour of the very industry that pays them and points them and sets them up, that is the clearest indication, in my view, it is a body which is failing," he said.

In an era of a 'rapidly converging set of media' Coad believes newspapers should be regulated by Ofcom, 'because you read a newspaper on screen'. It it not clear why newspapers are regulated separately from broadcasters, he said.

Another witness said that when a client approaches his firm with a complaint he has this advice: "If it's serious use the courts, and that's always our experience."

The PCC 'has a role, a limited role', added Mark Thomson, from Carter-Ruck Solicitors.

In an earlier session of the committee, a panel of media lawyers who normally act on behalf of newspapers showed support for the PCC.

"We check stories before they're published and one of our key considerations is the PCC code," Tony Jaffa, from Foot Anstey Solicitors, said.

"They [regional newspaper editors] really do take the code seriously."

Marcus Partington, chairman of the Media Lawyers Association, said the PCC 'proactively warns a newspaper before a story' and a lot of disputes are resolved 'quietly' as a result. The commission is 'quite effective behind the scenes', he said.

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