Aux entités et autorités appelées à déposer sur l'affaire MC, le Comité parlementaire posa deux questions auxquelles répondre par écrit.
1) Pourquoi le régime d'auto-régulation n'a-t-il pas été utilisé, pourquoi la PCC n'a-t-elle pas eu recours à sa propre enquête et quels changements cette affaire a-t-elle donné lieu dans l'industrie journalistique.
2) L'action pour diffamation gagnée par les MC contre l'Express Group et d'autres journaux indiquait-elle que le régime d'auto-régulation accusait une sérieuse faiblesse.
Audition de Paul Dacre - 23.04.2009
Q548 Ch. : To give you his specific allegation, he says he drew up a league table of complaints—
Q549 Ch. : —which have succeeded, either because the PCC have eventually adjudicated against the newspaper, or because the paper had agreed some kind of resolution to satisfy.
Q550 Ch. : He goes on to say that only four newspapers had suffered more than 50 successful complaints, and that the Daily Mail was at 153 compared with 43—
Q551 Ch. : He says successful complaints, in that you had accepted—
Q552 Ch. : So your answer to him is that actually the Daily Mail has not suffered or been shown to be in breach of the code any more than any other newspaper?
Q553 Ch. : Can I ask you whether you agree with the central thesis of his book, which is not directed at the Daily Mail but is a more general concern, that due to the financial pressures which you recognised in your opening remarks which are now on all newspapers that the level of investigative journalism is declining and more and more we are seeing what he has termed "churnalism", a simple reproduction of press releases received by spin doctors?
Q554 Janet Anderson (MP Labour) : Mr Dacre, I wonder if I could press you on what is in the public interest and so on. Do you believe that newspapers should be free to publish stories about individuals in which the public are interested, ie which the public want to read, rather than just those that are in the public interest? Could you give us some examples of when you believe a story is in the public interest and when it is not, and whether you would publish in both cases?
Q555 JA : So really your answer to my question is yes, you would publish both types of story?
Q556 JA : And if you had a story that you were going to run and you thought to yourself: "Actually we might get sued if I publish this story, but it is going to do so much to boost sales that I am going to go ahead with it anyway", would you run that risk?
Q557 Ch. : Obviously he is not your responsibility in the very least but Piers Morgan, of course, did say he did precisely that.
Q558 Paul Farrelly (MP Labour) : You said in your now famous speech, Mr Dacre, that if mass circulation—
Q559 PF : If you do it on Clicks and Links you are top of the Google list! You said: "[...] if mass-circulation newspapers, which also devote considerable space to reporting analysis of public affairs, do not have the freedom to write about scandal, I doubt whether they will retain their mass circulations with the obvious worrying implications for the democratic process". That seems to say in shorthand that if we do not run tons of titillating stuff we cannot afford to carry the staff to do the occasional serious stuff. Can you explain what you mean?
Q560 PF : So people have to take the rough with the smooth, basically?
Q561 PF : I would be interested in your opinion as to what was wrong with the newspaper reporting of the McCann case, and whether you think it was a one-off and unique.
Q562 PF : In shorthand you seem to be suggesting they were fair game?
Q563 PF : But when you are saying "some newspapers and the press" it just reminds me, and you are talking in the third party, of the famous attribute attributed to the Royals: "We are not amused". Are you saying you bore no responsibility for any of the reporting at all?
Q564 PF : But in inviting the press to help with their search and publicising the case you seem to be suggesting they also invited you into their parlour room to suggest that they were in some way responsible?
Q565 PF : We have heard some evidence from Sir Christopher Meyer which was not terribly persuasive in the way they went about it. But you reached an out-of-court settlement with the McCanns. Can I ask you what lessons you have learned and communicated to your reporters out of the affair?
Q566 Ch. : Did you take any action against the journalists who wrote the specific stories?
Q567 Ch. : Yes.
Q568 PF : One of the reasons to prompt this inquiry, and you may think "Who are we to judge the press", was that, in any other sphere of life, if something like this had happened that was a collective failure of standards there would be demands for an inquiry. The press jumps up and down for inquiries into the police or social services when they get things wrong but in this case there has been no inquiry, certainly not by the PCC, and the press has not jumped up and down to demand an inquiry. Is that not hypocritical?
Q569 PF : Was the McCann case unique in your view? Should no lessons be drawn from this?
Q570 PF : And what lessons should be drawn from it?
Q571 PF : And you would say that you have not since then transgressed those boundaries again? Can you think of a case where you might have done?
Q572 PF : You read every word presumably?
Q573 PF : As a good editor?
Q574 PF : But you read the lead stories of most interest?
Q575 PF : And are there any examples since the McCann case where you would say yes, in our heart of hearts we have gone over the boundary this time and we will not do it again?
Q576 Paul Farrelly: One specific question. Why on 11 March did you publish the name of the village where Elisabeth, the daughter of Josef Fritzl lived who was trying to be resettled to live what you would hope would be a normal-ish life, given what she has been through?
Q577 PF : You did.
Q578 PF : You did it first and they followed you.
Q579 PF : Given that you did, would you say that was responsible journalism?
Q580 PF : I am surprised you do not remember it because it has attracted some comment in the media.
Q581 PF : And it was a story of great human interest.
Q582 PF : The final question on this point. You said in your speech that some people revile a moralising media. Others such as myself believe it is the duty of the media to take an ethical stand, and the word "morality" courses through your speech, and I would just like to ask you whether you feel that publishing the name of a village where somebody had been resettled who had been through such a horrific experience was a moral thing to do?
Q583 PF : If you could, because if you are saying: "I do not know what the agencies were carrying, I do not know what the other newspapers were carrying", it rather sounds like the excuse: We were only following the others or following orders.
Q584 PF :If you could.
Q585 Philip Davies (MP Conservative) : Specifically on the PCC I think you said in answer to a question earlier that you regret that the McCanns did not pursue their complaint through the PCC. In the evidence that Gerry McCann gave he said he had been advised by both his legal advisers and by the PCC itself that they were not the most effective route for them to go through. Furthermore, the nub of the issue seems to me was that he said: "I did think it was surprising that an editor of a paper which had so fragrantly libelled us with the most devastating stories could hold a position on the board of the PCC." Do you not think that undermines the credibility of the PCC and people's preparedness to go through that route when they see that the people who they are complaining about are there to sit in potential judgment?
Q586 PD : I would be interested in your thoughts about what is the right make-up of the PCC. I think one of the people giving evidence to us earlier this week said it was like having a jury of twelve and finding if you are being prosecuted that five people on the jury were members of the family of the defendant, and the fact that seven might not be is not really much of a comfort to you. Would you share that particular concern?
Q587 PD : You might have confidence, and you work closely on it so you see it at first hand, but would you accept that there is a general perception that newspapers do not really take complaints to the PCC seriously so the only thing that is really going to get a newspaper editor to get concerned about something is if Carter Ruck sends a letter with the potential huge costs that you talked about earlier that will really make you sit up, but actually a complaint to the PCC is neither here nor there?
Q588 PD : But do you think that is the general perception of the PCC?