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Max Clifford warns of change to newspaper culture

Original Source: TELEGRAPH: MONDAY 30 JANUARY 2012
By James Orr 
9:45PM GMT 30 Jan 2012

Max Clifford has warned that future newspaper scoops such as the MP’s expenses scandal are at risk of never being published owing to concerns over the phone hacking inquiry.

Max Clifford told MPs and peers that a new press regulator needed to be fully independent of newspapers Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley

The publicist claimed the ongoing police investigation had left editors worried that their readers may believe “dubious methods” had been used in breaking major stories.



Giving evidence to the joint parliamentary committee on privacy and injunctions, he said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had failed badly at reacting to press intrusion in the past.



And he argued that a pro-active regulator was required to protect ordinary citizens, rather than celebrities, from unfair damage to their reputations.



He told the committee: "In the current climate you wouldn't know about MPs fiddling their expenses. There's lots of things like that I think wouldn't have come out in the current climate because editors haven't got the desire to potentially antagonise people in powerful positions in a way that they wouldn't have thought about two years ago.



"I am aware of many, many stories that would have made the front pages of the tabloid papers in the last six months which have not appeared," he said - saying journalists and editors were worried that readers would wrongly believe they had used dubious methods.



"It's gone from one extreme to the other. Hopefully it will get back to a half-way house."


Mr Clifford told MPs and peers that a new press regulator needed to be fully independent of newspapers - and hinted that he might like to be personally involved.


He said the PCC had proved "not remotely interested" in helping Robert Murat when he was falsely accused of involvement in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.


"The man was being destroyed by the British media. There was no truth in it at all. The PCC was nowhere to be seen. I could give you 50 examples," he said.


He added: "There needs to be a body that takes control. That appreciates that we've got to have a free press in a democracy but which controls the excesses.


"Members of the public come to me every day of the week because there's nowhere else for them to go because they can't afford lawyers."


Celebrities were already well protected because they had legal representation and professional publicists on their cases, Mr Clifford argued.


Asked if he saw himself as a potential member of a reformed PCC, he said: "I'm 68 now. I can't keep on much longer so there might well come a time.


"I enjoy those kind of things. I like it when ordinary members of the public come to me because sometimes you can do things and it gives me huge satisfaction.


"I suppose, as far as is possible, I'm independent if you see what I mean."


Asked directly if that should be seen as an application for the role, he added: "I've never applied for a job in my life and I'm not about to start now."


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