Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Hunt has ruled himself out of heading up new press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Hunt had a frosty encounter with MPs on the culture committee last month, with some expressing concern that the might take the IPSO job.
Conservative MP Conor Burns said that for the “existing leadership of the PCC to be even contemplating being the leadership of the new body risks not being the break and fresh start”.
It was revealed that Hunt is paid £180,000 to work three days a week at the PCC. The IPSO chair has been advertised with a salary of £150,000.
Hunt told the Media Show on Radio 4: “After much careful consideration I’ve decided it would not be appropriate for me to apply to be the first chair because I think there is a need for not only a new body but also a fresh start, a new era, new leadership and a new public face.
“I’ve devoted now more than two and half years to the cause of setting up a new self-regulation system for the press. My commitment to the task is undimmed but the reality is from the outset I’ve said both publicly and privately that as and when the PCC is replaced there has to be this fresh start.”
Most major newspaper and magazine publishers have signed up to IPSO which is set to be up and running by 1 May.
A five strong-strong panel headed by Sir Hayden Phillips, and including press industry representatives Paul Horrocks and John Witherow, is considering applications for the job of IPSO chair.
So far the publishers of The Independent, Guardian and Financial Times have all refused to sign up to IPSO because they believe it is not independent enough from the industry.
Private Eye has reported that Environment Agency chairman, and Labour peer, Chris Smith is being lined up to take over IPSO. If he takes the job it would be the first time that a Labour, rather than Conservative, politician has headed a UK press self regulation body.