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PCC chairman advocates new standards board to regulate journalists

By Hamish Mackay

December 14, 2011 | 3 min read

The new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is advocating that the press should be held to account by a separate, self-regulating standards board.

And it is understood that Lord Hunt will present proposals for a new "standards arm" at a meeting with national and regional newspaper editors tomorrow (Thursday).

Lord Hunt’s proposals were outlined on a visit to Newsquest’s South London Guardian series newsroom in Sutton to discuss with journalists their views on media regulation.

The Croydon Guardian reported that he said a standards body sitting alongside an organisation with a similar complaints investigation function to the PCC would allow better self-regulation.

The weekly newspaper said that “It would deal with broader problems of media conduct and standards, which had not been directly referred to the PCC.”

Lord Hunt is quoted as saying: ‘There should be a new body with two key roles: complaints and standards’.

He described the PCC as ‘reactionary’, and claimed that it was only looking into newspapers conduct after iit had received a compalint and added "There must be the standards to which everyone adheres that must be continually tested".

Lord Hunt is also report to have said that said a standards board would allow newspapers to "be more robustly audited" in order to ensure they were adhering to the code, even if a complaint had not been made against them.

Lord Hunt explained to the journalists that self-regulation was the only way forward for the media, and plans to publish his recommendations early next year in time to influence the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

He said: "In a free society it's not for the state, or politicians, to regulate the press."

But, according to the weekly newspaper, he is only too aware the newspaper industry had "a major fight on its hands" if it was to dissuade politicians and the public from bringing in legislation he fears could seriously erode the ability of newspapers to report on events and hold individuals and organisations to account.

However, he heaped praise on the high standards set by regional journalists such as those at Your Local Guardian.

He said: "I don’t think in my 35 years in Parliament I personally came across any instance where anyone working in the regional press fell below the highest standards."

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