PCC chairman Lord Hunt revealed last night that he plans to press ahead with his plan for a press regulator based on contracts.
He said he plans to create a new regulator “with effective sanctions and teeth, and independent from the industry and from the Government”. But it remains unclear how much the Hunt-Black plan for a new system of self-regulation will change to meet, what Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday described as “the Leveson principles”.
While Leveson accepted many aspects of the Hunt-Black plan, he rejected the suggesting that press owners should retain effective control over the new body. Under Hunt-Black the owners would make two of the four appointments to the governing board of the new regulator and have veto over choice of chairman.
Lord Hunt said he plans to call a meeting of all the main publishers “with a view to finalising the terms of the contract and the regulation so that commercial contracts can be signed and entered into as quickly as is practical”.
He added: “I recognise that because this will involve bi-lateral contracts between the new regulator and more than 30 companies, this may take a little while.”
He said that a “shadow trust board” will then put in place “independent appointment procedures” for the new company which will run the regulator.
“ I recognise that there is a tapestry of views within the industry about ‘independence’ and I would expect the shadow board to consult widely with the industry and with other interested parties, in particular the parliamentary DCMS Select Committee and the Secretary of State during this process.
“Needless to say, throughout this period we will take all necessary steps to ensure that members of the public continue to have access to a fast, free and fair complaints-handling body and - perhaps even more importantly - are able to continue to rely on the 24-hour assistance with urgent pre-publication and anti-harassment concerns that has been provided in recent years by the PCC.”
He said he intends to publish a timetable for the implementation of the proposals “which I hope will stimulate the widest possible consultation” – with a deadline of 30 June next year to have the new regulator up and running.
“My aim is to ensure that the valuable expertise within the Press Complaints Commission, which will close when NewCo is established, is retained by NewCo. I will therefore begin consultations with the staff to ensure that their positions are protected.”
Hunt also suggested that the industry begin an in-depth review of the Editors’ Code in the light of the Leveson report.