Five problems Leveson has to address to regulate the future of media, not the past

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Advertising Standards Authority, BBC News, Daily Express, Jasper Jackson, Ofcom, Paul Staines, Regulation, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog, BBC, ITV, Consumer Media, Digital Media, Newspapers

Lord Justice Leveson is due to report his findings at the end of this month, but will his recommendations be fit for an online age?

A quick look at the 3,659 complaints dealt with by the PCC in the eight months between January and August this year highlights some of the key weaknesses in the current system which Leveson has to tackle to stay relevant. 

-- In total the PCC resolved 441 complaints and decided 834 did not constitute a breach.

-- A further 1,516 were not pursued by the complainant and five led to no finding. That still leaves 865 complaints - almost a quarter - that the PCC was unable to deal with.

Some were dodged for legitimate reasons: because they concerned advertising (a matter for the Advertising Standards Authority) or were subject to legal action. 

But that still leaves 774 complaints, one fifth of the total, that the PCC couldn't deal with because of its inherent limitations. Here's what's wrong with the current model:

1. PPC only regulates those who sign up: 114 complaints were rejected because the accused publication wasn't a PCC member. This is the so-called "The Desmond Problem" - where publishers such as daily Express owner Northern and Shell refuse membership. 

2. Doesn't regulate the BBC: While the PCC does regulate newspaper and magazine websites, it doesn't regulate the country's biggest news website: bbc.co.uk/news. It received 39 complaints this year about the BBC, mostly about its website, a major competitor to every current member of the PCC.

3. Ofcom overlap: And it's not just the Beeb: 25 complaints were thrown out because they concerned Channel 4, ITV, Sky and others - companies regulated by Ofcom. All these are major online publishers in their on right - so where do you draw the line?

4. Third-party claims: Nearly 10 percent of the claims we looked at were excluded because of the third-party rule: the PCC only handled complaints from people directly affected by press coverage. That might seem like a sensible rule - but the PCC didn't initially investigate phone hacking at News International because it didn't receive a complaint from anyone affected -- something Leveson has to address.

5. What is "The Press": It's called the Press Complaints Commission, but newspapers are contemplating a future without print and are competing with organisations who have never owned a press and never will. Sites like the Huffington Post (which is actually a PCC member), Guido Fawkes or Political Scrapbook are increasingly dealing with controversial, important or tawdry stories - often having just as much impact as any PCC member. But who is going to regulate them

If Leveson doesn't tackle the gaps caused by the way media business models and markets have changed in the last two decades, then not only will the last 15 months of Justice Leveson's work have been a waste of time, but the same issues will inevitably arise again and we'll have to repeat the whole drawn out process for a second time. 

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