Press Freedom News
Press regulation: Group of six appointed to kick-start new watchdog
08 March 2013
The former supreme court judge, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, has established a six-strong "foundation group" to kick start the establishment of a new press regulator, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission has announced.
Lord Hunt, who was tasked with transitioning the PCC into the new regulator, said on Thursday that he is hoping the move will help extricate the process of setting up a new watchdog out of the "quagmire" it has been stuck in since the Leveson report was published in November.
At a press briefing Hunt rebuffed persistent requests to name those on the panel, save to say two of them were from a journalism background. "All five [Phillips] has asked are happy to help. There are four independent people including Nick [Phillips] and two from the [journalism] industry.
"I just want to set up the new body. There has been too much delay already which is why I am now firing the starting gun."
He said five draft bills, including ones from the Tories and the Labour party and press regulation reform campaigners Hacked Off, had been published and with cross party talks now in deadlock, it was imperative and in the public's interest that someone demonstrate a willingness to make a move.
He added: "I think we have reached something of a quagmire and we need to get out of it and challenge the three political parties to get on with something that will work."
Phillips's panel will set up the process for an appointments panel, which will then decide a second process to establish the all-important board of the new press regulator.
Once it has designed a process which is robust and in keeping with public appointments best practice, the Philllips panel will disband.
Hunt also said he hoped that the political impasse over Leveson proposals for a new press regulator would not kill off the defamation bill, which has been hijacked by a group of peers who voted to add some recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson's report to the bill in its final stages in the upper house.
The amendments, tabled by Lord Puttnam, received overwhelming support but Hunt said he voted against them because they were misguided and the defamation bill was not the right vehicle for them.
The addition of the amendments do not have the support of the Tories or Liberal Democrats, meaning the bill has little chance of being tabled in the Commons by mid-March, which would give it time for Royal Assent in April.
Libel reform campaigners have described the hijacking of the bill as a disgrace and a tragedy.
Hunt said: "We have a crucial few days ahead of us when it is decided if the defamation bill should come before the house of commons … It hangs in the balance."
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