Lord Hunt PCC

Lord Hunt said news organisations will 'prescribe and pay for' a regulator 'the public wants to see'

Credit: Max Nash/PA

The chair of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Hunt has today said "we will start again with a new press regulator with teeth".

Yesterday it was confirmed that the PCC will close following formal approval. The news came as no surprise to many, described by media commentator Roy Greenslade as "merely a full stop to a sentence written months ago".

In an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Lord Hunt said the PCC had accepted his proposals to scrap the body "to resume public trust and confidence in the press".

Lord Hunt, who was named as new chair of the regulator in October, had been tasked with the brief of proposing a new structure for press compliance and complaints.

Speaking at the Society of Editors conference in November he said he would submit proposals for a reformed structure of the self-regulation system early this year.

In today's interview with the BBC Hunt said there would be no need for legislation for the new regulator and suggested news outlets would be bound by "commercial contracts".

Newspapers, magazines and online outlets will "prescribe and pay for" a regulator that the "public wants to see", he said.

He added that he would press on with the creation of new independent body rather than wait for the findings of the ongoing Leveson inquiry into press standards, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

"I won't do anything that Lord Leveson doesn't want," he added.

Referring to evidence given to the Leveson inquiry he said: "The problem really was that the PCC was being criticised for powers it never had."

Outlining his proposal to the inquiry in January, Hunt said "the new regulator should have two arms".

"One that deals with complaints and mediation, continuing the valuable work that's been going on hitherto, by the staff of the PCC, and a separate arm that audits and, where necessary, enforces standards and compliance, compliance with the editors' code, with much greater emphasis on internal self-regulation, with a named individual carrying personal responsibility for compliance at each and every one of the publishers and those responsible for newspapers and magazines."

At the time he said that "virtually the whole range of publications" he has spoken to about reform of the PCC had shown willing to proceed in the way he had suggested.

Labour MP Harriet Harman, shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport responded to news of the closure of the PCC in a statement.

"Clearly, the PCC has failed. The tests for any new regulator will be these: will it be independent and accessible; will it be able to enforce its rulings and apply to all newspapers?

"If the new body fails on these principles, just as the PCC did, then this will amount to nothing more than a change of nameplates and business as usual."

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