PCC chairman Lord Hunt responds to questions about lack of transparency over creation of new press regulator

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PCC chairman Lord Hunt has responded to complaints raised by the Media Standards Trust about lack of transparency over the creation of a new press regulator.

In a letter to Lord Hunt, the body said: “We have not been told who is running the process, who is participating, what concerns newspapers have, what meetings are being held – between media organisations themselves or between media organisations and the government – or what is being discussed at those meetings, or where there are points of dispute with Lord Justice Leveson’s findings. Nor has there been any concerted attempt to include or consult with the public. 
 
“The ‘consultation’ on the Editors’ Code of Practice has hardly been publicised and corresponds only to one specific aspect of the process.”
 
It asked Lord Hunt the following questions:
Paul Vickers, Chairman of the ‘Industry Implementation Group’ was reported as saying that the draft Royal Charter was ‘the fruit of two months of intensive talks involving the newspaper and magazine industry and all three main political parties’: 
  • What is the ‘Industry Implementation Group’, what is its remit, and who is on it? 
  • Will you be publishing details of the ‘intensive talks involving the newspaper and magazine industry and all three main political parties’? Did the newspaper and magazine industry request any changes be made to the recognition criteria in the draft Royal Charter before publication?
  • Will you be publishing any details of the meetings held by the industry about the development of a new system between December 2012 and February 2013?
  • Do you plan to make future industry meetings and proposals for a new system public?
  • How do you plan to involve the public in the development of a new system (beyond the limited consultation on the Code)?
Here is Lord Hunt’s response:
I agree that the process of transition should be as transparent as possible. As you know, I have certainly tried to be as open as possible about my own activities. In at least ten different places within this Report, Sir Brian Leveson urges the newspaper and magazine industries to set up what he describes as ‘voluntary independent self-regulation’.
 
I am not the industry and I do not speak for the industry, but, as you know, I have been asked by the industry to provide advice and focus, where appropriate, in line with my original brief when I was appointed back in October 2011, namely to lead the ‘regeneration and renewal’ of the system of press regulation.
 
This role was reaffirmed in a letter to Maria Miller on 13 December, sent on behalf of the trade association of the newspaper and magazine industries.
 
I have not, however, been present at most of the meetings that have taken place between the industry and ministers. When the view has been taken that my advice would be useful, I have been invited and I have made every effort to attend, but in each and every instance my role was strictly that: advisory. I was in no sense a negotiator; nor did I speak for the industry. 
 
You ask about the nature of the discussions that have taken place between the industry and ministers. It is my understanding that the outcome of the discussions was reflected in the contents of the draft Royal Charter published by the Conservative Party on 12 February. 
 
As for my own position (and that of the PCC) in light of the Leveson Report, it was set out, first, in a speech I delivered in Norwich on the day of publication. I attach a copy for your information. We have made substantial progress since then on all six of the points I set out at the end of the speech. 
 
I brought the House of Lords up to date on 11 January and 5 February. I also hosted on-the-record briefing for media correspondents on 14 December, 20 December and 14 January.
 
In short, I and my team stand ready to establish a Leveson-compliant, self-regulatory structure for news publishers. How (and indeed if) that nobody is scrutinised by a “verifier” is a matter for others. The sooner we are able to begin, the happier, I shall be.

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