Press Complaints Commission to close before Leveson report

Selection of Sunday newspapers on a newsstand
Image caption The interim body will continue to be funded by newspaper and magazine publishers

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has confirmed it is to close before Lord Justice Leveson produces his report into press standards.

The commission has been widely criticised for its handling of the phone-hacking scandal.

The fast-track closure was agreed by members of the commission at a meeting on Wednesday.

The commission will be replaced by a transitional body until a new system of press regulation is established.

Clean break

The PCC's staff, assets and liabilities will be transferred to the new body.

No name, structure or timetable have been announced but it will form part of an "independent self-regulatory" structure, still paid for by the newspaper and magazine industry.

The move is seen as an attempt by the industry to make a clean break with the past and try to regain public confidence, without the need for the government to impose statutory controls on the press.

But it may not go far enough for the PCC's critics, some of whom accuse the press of trying to pre-empt the Leveson report.

The PCC chairman Lord Hunt said last month that the decision to close the PCC and move to a new body had been taken in principle.

He told Sky News: "We're very much 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 news of the PCC's closure has been welcomed by the National Union of Journalists.

Its general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: "The PCC's entire history and that of the Press Council before it, indeed all regulation of the press since the Second World War, is a tale of too little, too late."

Ms Stanistreet said any new organisation must cut all links with the past.

"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," she said.

The director of the PCC, Stephen Abell, stepped down last month after helping Lord Hunt draw up the new proposals.

For the time being he is being replaced by a small transition team, the PCC says.

Complaints and mediation

Lord Hunt has said that the PCC was never a regulator because it never had any enforcement powers.

He said it was a complaints and mediation service and those functions would continue to be handled by the new transition body.

The regulator would have a separate arm overseeing standards and compliance, which could fine publishers for serious breaches.

There is discussion over whether the body could offer legally binding solutions to libel complaints, through an arbitration service.

The new system has been agreed in principle by most newspaper and magazine groups.

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