Sir Christopher Meyer has announced he is to step down as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission at the end of March next year on completing his second three-year term in the post.
The former diplomat and ambassador to the United states took over the job in 2003 taking over from Lord Wakeham.
Meyer took over at a time when self regulation of the press was in question. In 2003 a Parliamentary committee looked at imposing further statutory controls on the press.
But Meyer announces his exit at a time when both major political parties have stated their support for self regulation of the press. Meyer had open heart surgery shortly after taking over his new job in 2003 but since then his health is believed to have been good.
In 2005, Meyer faced demands to stand down as chairman after publishing a book of memoirs called DC Confidential detailing his time as US ambassador. MPs claimed the book was a breach of trust with ministers and made Meyer unfit to chair the PCC. The book was serialised in the Daily Mail and the Guardian.
Meyer assured MPs that he had no plans to write a “PCC confidential”.
Meyer said today : “I have found the challenge of strengthening the independence, effectiveness and credibility of self-regulation as stimulating and demanding as any job I did as a diplomat. Thanks to the dedication and professionalism of all at Halton House, the PCC has made a lot of progress in the last few years and today provides a service to record numbers of the public. But more remains to be done, especially in the digital age, and it is right that, after six years as Chairman, I should pass the baton to a successor. I came into this job convinced that self-regulation administered by an independent PCC was the only system of regulation compatible with a free press in a democratic society. I will leave the PCC reinforced in that belief.”
The £1.8 million a year funding for the PCC and the appointment of the chairman is organised by the Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBoF), which is chaired by Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler.
Bowdler said: “Since his appointment Christopher has made an immense contribution to self-regulation. 1Early on he brought forward his ‘permanent evolution’ proposals which included the appointment of the Charter Commissioner and the introduction of the Charter Compliance Panel to strengthen the service of the independent PCC to readers.
“Among other initiatives, he was a prime mover in bringing self-regulation of editorial audio-visual material on newspaper and magazine websites within the PCC’s remit. Political and public confidence in the self regulatory system for newspapers and magazines is a tribute to the way Sir Christopher has led the PCC since his appointment.
“We continue to be greatly indebted to Sir Christopher for his ongoing and outstanding leadership of the Commission and its staff.”
The position of PCC chairman will be advertised.