Paul Dacre: 'hadn't thought through' whether digital journalists would be included
Giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry today, Dacre suggested a "civil contract" for every journalist working for an accredited news organisation – requiring them to adhere to the rules of a new regulatory body.
He said there were currently 17 bodies that were able to issue press cards and that the existing cards "don't mean much".
He proposed having one umbrella body that would accredit journalists – and that would have the power to cancel a member's press card if they were found to have engaged in misconduct, in the same way that the General Medical Council can strike off doctors.
"It will be the newspaper industry registering and disciplining journalists, not the state," he said.
Dacre appeared to suggest that the press card scheme would be "only for print newsgathering organisations or magazines which have signed up for the new body". He said paparazzi photographers should have to sign up to the code of conduct to obtain the card.
Asked about digital journalists, he admitted he "hadn't thought that through". He did not speak about broadcasters or freelance journalists.
Dacre said he supported Lord Hunt's outline for contractual press regulations, telling the inquiry: "Of course I'd be willing to sign up to it. It sounds very interesting."
He defended the work of the Press Complaints Commission in handling complaints, but acknowledged that another body could oversee journalistic standards.
He said: "By and large, the scandals that have emerged are above the law – hacking phones is illegal, paying policemen is illegal. I'm not sure what a self-regulatory body was supposed to do about that.
"I accept that the PCC as it is constituted couldn't deal with press standards. I think it would be in the good of the industry to have another body alongside the PCC to deal with standards."
He said such a body "should have the power to look into abuses of standards and impose some kind of sanctions".
However he added: "The complainants' part of self-regulation has done a pretty good job and should be allowed to continue doing that. I think there are areas where we could improve things."