PCC Chairman Suggests Changes to UK Media Regulation at Leveson Hearing

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Lord Hunt (Credit: the BBC, screenshot)

The Press Complaints Commission’s chairman Lord Hunt proposed a “totally new” regulation system and a “fresh start” at the Jan. 31 Leveson Inquiry.

We wrote in July 2011 when Hunt’s predecessor as PCC chairman, Baroness Peta Buscombe, announced her resignation.  Hunt became the new chairman in October. The PCC is the print media regulator in the U.K.

According to the Guardian, Hunt said he was against the idea of “statutory regulation of newspapers” because it could hinder press freedom.  Instead, he said, “We do urgently need a totally new body with substantial increased powers.”

The Guardian reported that Hunt advised that the new agency have:

  • “real powers to investigate allegations” like phone hacking and invasion of privacy
  • the ability to “impose fines and award compensation”
  • independence from the news outlets it regulates
  • “binding contracts..for five years” with each newspaper.
  • the ability to handle complaints, standards and arbitration

During his testimony, Hunt defined self-regulation as “I really want to see the participation of the whole industry in its own regulation.”  He also called for an “independent review of the code” of practice.

Hunt noted that his suggestions were made after meeting with “other stakeholders” in the industry.

The PCC has been heavily criticized this past year amidst the phone hacking, computer hacking and bribery accusations against the UK press. See our October report here on some of the criticism and defenses of the PCC.

In response to some of the criticism, Hunt said, “I think the PCC has been very unfairly criticised for failing to exercise powers which it never had in the first place.”

Read Hunt’s full testimony here on the Leveson Inquiry’s website.

PCC member Lord Grade also told the Leveson Inquiry that day that “the PCC currently has no resource to be any more than a complaints handler,” according to the guardian.  Grade also advised that editors currently working shouldn’t be “present” in a “new regulator” and called for “a ‘contractual relationship’ between publishers and the new regulator.”

UPDATE: 2/6/2012 3:15 PM EST: Added in information about Lord Grade’s comments.

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PCC Chairman Suggests Changes to UK Media Regulation at Leveson Hearing

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