The Independent reported yesterday that the UK Press Complaints Commission, which has come under heavy criticism for its failure to curb phone hacking at the News of the World, is due to close down in the near future, and replace itself with a new regulator.
The paper writes that the PCC will close “in a fast-tracked programme that will kill off the name of the PCC, abandon its current structures and governance, and establish a new regulatory body”. It states that the new regulator will be established before the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics delivers its report at the end of the year.
The Independent writes that the PCC’s closure was discussed at a full meeting of the commission, headed by its chairman Lord Hunt.
The paper reports that a timetable for the commission’s closure, as well as suggestions of names for a body that will replace it, will be released when the minutes of the PPC meeting are published.
A spokesperson for the PCC told the SFN blog that there was a “unanimous agreement in principal” for a “transfer of assets, liability and staff to a new regulatory body”. However, he stated that this was something that had been discussed by Lord Hunt in public at the end of last month.
At the end of February, Lord Hunt told Dermot Murnaghan at Sky News that the Press Complaints Commission had “met and agreed that we would in principle move now to a new body, for the first time a press regulator with teeth.” Hunt told Sky News that the changes would involve “a fresh start and a new body”.
The PCC has been criticized in the course of the Leveson Inquiry for its failure to investigate phone-hacking at News International. Tim Toulmin, a former PCC director told the Leveson inquiry in January that the PCC was a “complaints mechanism” rather than a “regulator”.
In discussing the need for tougher regulation, UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said last month that the public and press were “much closer to a consensus than I would perhaps have predicted" on how to regulate the British press. Hunt said that he supported a tougher, but still independent regulatory body capable of imposing “credible punishment”.
The PCC spokesperson stated that the Independent article seemed to be partially based on speculation about information from a Westminster source about yesterday’s meeting. Minutes of the meeting, he said, are due to be released later today.