PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION TO CLOSE (8 MARCH 2012)

A spokesman has confirmed that the Press Complaints Commission (the PCC) has decided to transfer all its assets, liabilities and staff to a new intermediary body which has yet to establish a name. The PCC was launched 21 years ago, in response to the Calcutt’s response, as a self-regulatory body. It has been heavily criticised in recent months, in the aftermath of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, as being powerless and incompetent.

Media commentators have predicted that a new form of regulator will emerge as a result of the Leveson Inquiry, with more powers than the PCC. The new transitional body will be run by a three-member panel consisting of: Michael McManus, a former Conservative special adviser, who is director of transition; communications director Jonathan Collett, who has previously acted as press adviser to former Conservative leader Michael Howard; and head of complaints Charlotte Dewar, who had previously worked for the Guardian.

The PCC has faced serious criticisms over its management of the phone-hacking scandal; indeed it soon became quite evident how little authority it had. The PCC had no powers to impose fines or other penalties on newspapers or magazines which breached the Editors Code of Conduct which it enforced. Its position of authority was further weakened at the end of 2010, when Richard Desmond announced that he was withdrawing his Northern and Shell group from the PCC (the group publishes the Daily and Sunday Express, Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday, and OK! Magazine). The announcement came after Northern and Shell decided against paying the voluntary subscription to PressBoF - the Press Board of Finance - which funds the PCC and its work. This event led to calls for statutory press regulator covering all newspapers and magazines.

The National Union of Journalists welcomed the PCCs move, but stressed the importance of real change to the system of regulation. General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "Self-regulation has been given every possible chance to work in many different forms over the past 40 years and has failed the test every time. It is for this reason that for the past two years it has been the NUJs policy position - as set down by its democratic delegate meeting which forges and evolves policy on behalf of the 38,000 journalists in the union - that the PCC has shown itself to be incapable of genuine reform and that it must be dismantled and a new organisation created that cuts all links with the way business has been done in the past”.
 

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