Abell: 'The PCC is going to change considerably'

Press Complaints Commission director Stephen Abell has admitted the watchdog faces a ‘watershed moment’but insisted that ‘the PCC has to go on”.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to sound the death knell for the PCC when he announced the upcoming inquiry into phone-hacking would look into the future of press regulation in the UK, claiming ‘the way the press is regulated today is not working”.

The PCC remains optimistic, however, with Abell claiming that the watchdog has ‘always been moving and evolving’and that now is a ‘moment for it to change again”.

‘There are lots of things in the current system that need to be retained and which work very well – but this is an opportunity to see what needs to be changed,’Abell told Press Gazette. ‘The PCC in its current form is going to change considerably.”

He continued: ‘The sense I have having spoken to senior politicians from all the three main parties is they don’t want statutory intervention and if you don’t want that then you are left with a reformed system, which is something where we can probably reach some degree of agreement.’

Commenting on the PCC’s investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World – dubbed “worse than pointless” by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger – Abell repeated the stance taken by outgoing chairman Baroness Buscombe, namely that the regulator, “in common with everyone”, was “not given the full picture by the News of the World – we were misinformed about what happened”.

Asked what could have been done differently in its investigation, Abell said that was what the phone-hacking review committee set up by the PCC at the beginning of the year would establish.

‘As we look at ways to reform the PCC it [the review committee] will look at lessons to learn about what type of body could have done things differently. The question – if the PCC had greater powers what would it have discovered – isn’t one that seems to have an immediately straight-forward answer.’

This is an excerpt from an interview with Stephen Abell in the August edition of Press Gazette magazine. To read the full full interview subscribe to Press Gazette.

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