Press regulator needs industry figurehead to create trust, says Warren Johnson

The news that the Press Complaints Commission is set to disband itself has seen calls for the body that replaces it to take on a leading and trusted figurehead from journalism.

Lord Hunt: PCC chairman (Rex Features)
Lord Hunt: PCC chairman (Rex Features)

The PCC yesterday confirmed it is to close before Lord Justice Leveson produces his report into press standards. The commission has been widely criticised for its handling of the phone-hacking scandal.

The fast-track closure was agreed by members of the commission at a meeting on Wednesday. The commission will be replaced by a transitional body until a new system of press regulation is established.

W Communications MD Warren Johnson, whose agency handles PR for The Independent and i newspapers, described the announcement as ‘a pre-emptive strike’, coming as it does in the middle of the Leveson Inquiry.

‘Going forward, any new body must have the support and involvement of the industry, but at the same time have enough punch to actively regulate and stop the practices currently being investigated,’ added Johnson.

‘To promote the new body, a strong high-profile candidate should be appointed who not only has the wide support of the industry but can also communicate well with the public.’

Johnson pointed to former Independent editor Simon Kelner as one potential candidate for the role.

The CIPR pointed to continuity as being essential in the transitional arrangements following the closure of the PCC.

CIPR CEO Jane Wilson: ‘The transitional arrangements must provide continuity and the regulatory regime that follows it should be one that actively rebuilds public trust in the professional standards of UK journalism but does not cross the line into Government control of media.’

PRCA comms director Richard Ellis said: ‘The PCC has too long been the lapdog of the media. It is in the press’ own interests to have a bulldog to hold it to account. 

‘Revenues are dependent on circulation and circulation is dependent on public trust in the media. The new body must bring leading bloggers and online news organisations into its fold. The opportunity for the new PCC is to provide a kitemark that consumers can trust, distinguishing the best from the worst.’

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