PCC to close by year's end

Press regulator is to close in the wake of criticism over its response to phone hacking.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is to close down in the wake of a turbulent year in which it faced severe criticism for its response to phone hacking.

The press regulator will be replaced with a new body which will operate under a different name and with a completely revamped governance structure. The closure was formally approved at a full meeting of the commission chaired by Lord Hunt in London on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the PCC's chairman, Lord Hunt, said that a decision to close the organisation had been taken in principle, but that the details were yet to be confirmed. He told Sky News in February:

So we're very much now on the front foot and listening to all sides and determined to bring forward the sort of independent self-regulatory structure that everyone will approve of.

Lord Hunt gave some indication of what the new body will look like in his evidence to the Leveson inquiry in January, saying the reformed PCC should have the power to fine newspapers and compel them to join the new regulator.

The PCC's replacement will be in place before Lord Justice Leveson delivers his report on the ethics of the press at the end of this year.

The regulator has faced harsh criticism from a string of witnesses at the Leveson inquiry and from across the political spectrum over its lacklustre reaction to the phone hacking scandal. The criticisms are focused on the failure of the organisation to investigate properly allegations of widespread hacking when they emerged in 2009.

An inquiry carried out by the Home Affairs Select Committee condemned the PCC for an investigation that had not "fully, or forensically, considered all the evidence"; "effectively exonerated the News of the World"; and was "simplistic, surprising and a further failure of self-regulation".

Speaking at the Leveson inquiry, a former director conceded in January that the organisation is not a "regulator" and merely a "complaints body",

Tim Toulmin, who was director of the self-regulation body between 2004 and 2009, defended the PCC but argued it was powerless to act.
"It think it's a complaints body. I've always preferred to think of it as an ombudsman. I don't think it is a regulator," he said. Lady Buscombe, the chair of the PCC at the time phone hacking took place, last year admitted that she had been lied to by executives at News International. The organisation took the rare step of announcing that it "no longer stands by" a 2009 report that was written after the investigation.

The PCC was created in 1991 following the failure of the nearly forty-year-old self-regulatory body the Press Council.

A 2008 study found that the PCC reject 90.2 per cent of all complaints on technical grounds without investigation. Of the 28,227 complaints the commission received in its first ten years, a total of 197 -- or 0.69 per cent -- were upheld by a PCC adjudication.