All non-media relations personnel at regulated firms should be banned from speaking to the media, regardless of seniority, the FSA says, but it denies choking press freedom.
The "recommendation" in this month's FSA MarketWatch newsletter is directed at situations where a regulated firm is handling "inside information".
However the FSA's definition of inside information relates to "a corporate transaction, a trading update, regular financial information or otherwise", potentially trapping all communication between advisers and journalists.
The newsletter is not FSA guidance, but a spokesperson for the regulator says if firms fail to implement changes to their media policy, the issue can be consulted on in 12 months time and the changes made formal.
In smaller regulated businesses without a media relations team, and which "may not have the required skills and expertise to appreciate the sensitivity of the issues", the compliance or legal team must be used instead.
"Internal policies should require all initial media enquiries received by a regulated firm's staff to be immediately directed to the firm's media relations team", it states.
"All non-media-relations personnel at regulated firms should be prohibited from directly responding to any initial enquiry from the media, regardless of seniority."
The recommendations state the media relations team can only authorise other staff to communicate with the media where a member of that team is present to take a record of the conversation, or when the conversation is held on a recorded telephone line.
Written communication between journalists and other staff must be copied in to media relations personnel, including emails.
The FSA spokesperson says firms do not have to implement the recommendations but if it is investigated for a leak and they are not in place it can be held against the firm as a failure of systems and controls.
"The FSA is not clamping down on media freedom. It is clamping down on the passing of information or misinformation which could affect a financial deal."
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