The groundwork has been laid thoroughly by campaigners, charities, women's organisations and the like, who have worked tirelessly to change this situation, and yet there is still no means at all of holding the UK press to task for degrading, sexist or harmful reporting. Which leaves us wondering; is it time to update the Editors' Code?
It's not an oversight or an accident that the PCC fails to spell out to the public which newspapers attract the most complaints and which papers breach the code most often. Look at this table of complaints about UK national daily and Sunday newspapers for 2013, compiled by Hacked Off from the PCC Monthly Complaint Summaries, and you will soon get an idea of who benefits if the public doesn't see these figures...
This country is now very close to settling a problem that has plagued it for generations. The problem was this: how to protect ordinary citizens from lying, bullying and unjustified intrusion carried out in the name of journalism, while at the same time ensuring that journalists were free to do the job they need to do to sustain our democracy. The solution is the Royal Charter on press self-regulation.
In 2009 newspapers were arguing to MPs that the existence of a no-win-no-fee system giving some ordinary people the ability to sue papers for breaching their rights was an unacceptable constraint on press freedom. The talk of 300 years of press freedom is not based on the facts but is an argument of convenience. Today these papers declare that the press has been free for centuries, but tomorrow, if it suits them, the same papers will insist with equal ardour that the press has never been free.
What did you do with your extra hour last Sunday? If Instagram were to be believed, I'd hazard a guess it was working on your Halloween costume. Yep, forget Christmas, if there's a 'festival' worth getting dressed up for, Halloween appears to be very much it... with us Brits having taken a cue from our American cousins and embraced the event with gusto this year. Away from pumpkins and cat costumes, it was a toss up this week as to who got the biggest fright.
Much of the press has wildly misread the public mood on press reform. After a weekend of Leveson-bashing and breathless attacks on the Royal Charter agreed by parliament, a new poll conducted by YouGov for the Media Standards Trust and reported in the Guardian shows public backing for the judge's reform to be as strong as ever.
Parliament's Royal Charter, which implements the Leveson recommendations and is endorsed by all parties in Parliament, will benefit everyone and will enhance freedom of expression. These are the top 20 benefits. One: If a news publisher has harmed you in a way that breaches the industry standards code, for example by getting facts wrong or intruding unjustifiably in private grief, you can take your complaint to a new, genuinely independent and impartial complaints service - free.
Editors, we hear, are filing one by one through the door of Downing Street, bending the prime minister's ear about royal charters and press regulators. You must do something, they warn him, or there will be an impasse, a stalemate. They are wrong. There is no impasse; there is a process. Lord Justice Leveson foresaw that some editors and proprietors would stubbornly resist change and he made provision for this.
We are asked to believe that while the poor newspapers have been hounded over phone hacking, 'blue-chip companies' of all sorts are getting clean away with paying private investigators to break the law on a vast scale. What is striking about this claim is not the fragmentary evidence on which it is based nor the way it has been overblown in the newspapers (and we will return to those matters soon), but the breathtaking hypocrisy of it all.
The country simply does not trust the press to handle complaints fairly or uphold journalistic standards effectively, without the independent checks proposed by Lord Justice Leveson. It wants to see, at the very least, a future press self-regulator undergoing regular inspections by an external body to ensure it meets basic standards of independence and effectiveness.
Our choice is plain. Do we have the latest model, cosmetically-altered self-regulator designed to serve the interests of the industry that owns it, or do we have a truly independent body that meets standards proposed by an exhaustive public inquiry and protects citizens from abuse while also protecting free speech?
It is an ugly spectacle: a Cabinet minister being pushed around in public by a powerful and unscrupulous vested interest. But that seems to be what is happening to Maria Miller, and she is not putting up much of a fight. This week she announced that she would give precedence to the wishes of PressBoF, an organisation of newspaper bosses roundly condemned in the Leveson Report, over the wishes of every single party in our elected Parliament, as expressed in a formal motion on 18 March.