Baroness Buscombe is standing down as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.
A statement released by the press watchdog this afternoon said that Buscombe’s three-year term comes to an end in the New Year and Buscombe will ‘not to continue beyond that term to allow ample time for her successor to be found”.
The news comes after Buscombe received widespread criticism for her handling of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
Buscombe will contribute to the Leveson Inquiry as an ‘expert in the area of media regulation”. She said: ‘I am very proud of my work at the PCC, which – from the very beginning – has been aimed at instigating the process of reform of the organisation. This included a Governance Review in the course of which I decided to make a number of internal improvements and the introduction of revised procedures in regard to the Editors’ Code. This was always intended to be a springboard for further reform.
‘I am pleased that the commission want me to continue in post until my successor has been appointed. Thereafter, I will be able to be a campaigner for change from outside the organisation. I wish to contribute to the Leveson inquiry and participate fully in the overall debate regarding reform, unfettered by my role as chairman of the PCC.
She continued: ‘I leave with three clear messages. First, the public rightly demands stronger powers for dealing with the misconduct of the press. They must get them.
‘Second, the public needs the existing work of the PCC to continue and be built upon. I have worked as chairman to ensure that we give real help (both before and after publication) to members of the public, who otherwise would have no-one to turn to. The staff of the PCC are unsurpassed in terms of the effort and intelligence they bring to their work.
‘And third, the importance of a free press has never been greater. It was thanks to investigative journalism that the phone-hacking scandal was brought to public attention. Newspapers and magazines must have the proper freedom to represent their readers’ interests, and also to expose wrongdoing wherever it may be found.
‘In this world of shifting media provision, I am convinced the answer to ethical concerns about the press is not statutory intervention. What is needed is a greater sense of accountability among editors and proprietors. A PCC with increased powers and reach remains the best way of achieving that.”
A separate statement released by the PCC said: “We are grateful to Peta for making this announcement today, which will help to ensure that her successor is in a position to assist and support the Inquiry of LJ Leveson. We are grateful that she will stay on as chairman in the interim, as the PCC not only continues to serve the public in handling complaints, but begins the process of formulating improvements to the system of press regulation.
‘Peta has made a major contribution to the PCC, and her work has led to many improvements over the last couple of years. She leaves the commission structurally stronger than when she came in, and in a better position to continue its evolution.
‘We thank her for all that she has achieved thus far as our chairman, and wish her all the very best for her future once she has handed over to her successor.”