Last year, as if the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had not already lost enough of its credibility over Phonehackgate and its consistent inability to prevent the Fourth Estate from behaving as it bloody well pleased, Richard “Dirty” Desmond withdrew his titles from its oversight. Partly this was down to the influence of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, and partly down to Des’ innate tightness.
Richard f***ing Desmond? I hate the c***
Desmond, as with all his business decisions, had looked at the numbers and concluded that he was better off out of the PCC, even if the odd defamation case got slapped on the Express or Daily Star, that last demonstrating how useless the PCC had become. That was bad enough, but now the problem looks as if it will be getting him to come back into the fold post Leveson.
According to the Times – which may indicate that the story has been run to try and suggest that whatever is recommended by Leveson is automatically Not A Very Good Thing – Des is digging his heels in at the prospect of being forced to join whatever successor body replaces the PCC. He is thought to be ready to argue that this would be an abuse of competition law.
But, given his competition would all have signed up to the new body, it would be him that was gaining an unfair advantage, rather than him being disadvantaged by joining. And that means there are just two real reasons why he would not want to play ball. One of those is that he and Dacre mutually detest each other, and that the Vagina Monologue was head of the PCC Editors’ Code Committee.
But all that would need to be done to allay that fear is to make the PCC replacement completely independent of editors, their hacks and their pundits. That should not prove an unduly difficult task to achieve. Indeed, keeping Dacre and the rest of the tabloids off the new body – given much of their past behaviour – would be a very good advert for it. That would not be a problem for Desmond.
Then the only possible reason for Dirty Des to stay out would be because he’s still hermetically tight. But for him to argue competition law, if the denial of the PA wire is balanced by his not having to pay his subs to the new body, looks pointless. Of course, Des does have one nuclear option, and that is to threaten to sell his titles and quit the business altogether.
But there’s one very clear problem with that approach: the Express and Daily Star have had their journalist ranks weakened so severely under his less than benign leadership that there may not be anyone prepared to take them on, except to effectively buy the circulation and asset strip the rest. And to think that in its heyday the Express regularly sold four million copies a day.
Run into the dirt for a fast buck? That’ll be another Benchmark Of Excellence.