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Shutdown: UK’s media watchdog closed in wake of phone hacking scandal

The Press Complaints Commission will be replaced with an interim body before a radically different regulator is set up in the wake of the Leveson inquiry.

File photo
File photo
Image: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons

THE PRESS COMPLAINTS Commission (PCC) in the UK has been closed down and has moved all its staff, assets and liabilities to a new transitional body ahead of overall regulatory reform expected later this year.

The closure of the body has come on foot of the revelations from the ongoing phone hacking scandal in the UK in which the PCC has been heavily criticised for its lack of regulatory power and investigation into initial allegations of phone hacking three years ago.

The Commission was set up 21 years as a replacement for the then Press Council. Its closure will see its responsibilities transferred to an interim body before a long-term replacement is set up in the wake of the ongoing Leveson inquiry into media ethics in the UK.

The current chair of the PCC, Lord Hunt, said last month that a decision to move to a new body had already been agreed in principle. He told Sky News at the time:

“We’re very much now on the front foot and listening to all sides and determined to bring forward the sort of independent self-regulatory structure that everyone will approve of.”

‘The PCC has failed’

The Guardian reports that Hunt may now have to reapply for his job at the transitional body which does not yet have a name. The paper also carries details that the long-term replacement regulator will have three units.

One will deal with press standards and compliance, one will represent complaints and mediation and one will offer legally binding solutions to libel complaints through arbitration. Before its announced closure today, the PCC’s decisions were not legally binding.

According to Press Gazette, Lord Hunt has said there is general consensus among newspaper proprietors and editors about his proposals.

Another key problem for the PCC had been that membership of it was not compulsory leading the owner of the Daily Star and Daily Express newspapers Richard Desmond to withdraw his titles from the body last year.

The PCC was widely criticised for its ‘toothless’ regulation and for its response to allegations of widespread phone hacking at the now-defunct News of The World in 2009.

Last July, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The PCC has failed. In this case it was absent, ineffective and lacking in rigour. It lacks public confidence. We need a new system entirely.”

The Leveson inquiry is due to publish its findings later this year which will make recommendations on a long-term regulator which would then likely be set up next year.

Read more about the hacking scandal in the UK >

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Hugh O'Connell

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