On receiving a critical report from the Media Standards Trust (MST), UK industry regulator the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) did not sit back quietly and accept the claims that the current system of self-regulation is opaque, ineffective and in need of reform.

The commission fought back: its chair, Sir Christopher Meyer, spoke strongly on the BBC Radio4 Today programme, outlining his concerns with lack of consultation during the report's research stage; he then issued a public letter to the Trust with his complaints; and the latest PCC newsletter featured a 'facts behind the figures' section, partly in response to the report's use of its statistics.

Last week lawyers, who normally represent publications in court, told a House of Commons select committee on press standards, privacy and libel that the PCC was a very effective body. In particular, Tony Jaffa, a solicitor from Foot Anstey Solicitors, defended its role for regional press.

But another lawyer, who usually represents the claimants fighting publications, said it was 'failing' and incapable of enforcing suitable corrections in newspapers.

The journalist Nick Davies also found failings with the PCC in his book Flat Earth News, and tells Journalism.co.uk that he sees the body as 'structurally corrupt'. His use of PCC statistics, like the MST's, was quickly rebuked by the body. Davies maintains that his use of the statistics was accurate.

Davies says that Meyer, when facing criticism, 'engages in this kind of verbal thuggery'. "Instead of addressing the issues, he simply attacks the people who dare to criticise the PCC,"  he tells Journalism.co.uk.

The PCC rejects thousands of complaints on technical grounds, Davies claims, adding that he himself has been on both sides of complaints which have been thrown out.

"If you look at it as a way of dealing with honest complaints for people have been treated badly by the media or if you look at it as a mechanism for dealing with media it has been a grotesque failure, really shameful, and Meyer is part of the problem," Davies says.

The PCC, however, maintains that Davies misused statistics, saying that he confused definitions of adjudications and rulings in his analysis. "We don't recognise his interpretation," says Tim Toulmin, director of the PCC.

It is unfair to suggest that the commission is dodging deeper criticisms by focusing on misuse of its statistics, Toulmin argues.

Guardian journalist David Leigh agrees that the PCC has problems, but for him, a national system of self-regulation is flawed.

"The PCC is a fraud basically. It only exists while it doesn't regulate the newspapers in any kind of serious way," he adds.

"If the PCC had demonstrated it was self-regulation with teeth it wouldn't be regarded with such cynicism - but it hasn't and it is."

Grievances can be dealt with outside court, and without need for a national regulatory body, Leigh says.

For example, he says, publications can self-police with an independent ombudsman: "We [the Guardian] have an independent ombudsman - people can have their complaints dealt with independently, so as far as we're concerned we've cleaned up our own act."

The PCC could see more criticism as a result of the select committee's current review, during the evidence-gathering process and upon publication of its findings - only time will tell how the body responds if that is the case.

Toulmin welcomes the review, he says.  "This is a serious body of inquiry - made up of people whose job it is to scrutinise the media. We recognise their jurisdiction and their expertise before they reach their conclusions. It is a suitable, authoritative forum," he says.

The PCC is due to publish its annual review at the end of March and will give evidence to the committee on March 24 2009.

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