The Press Complaints Commission has confirmed it is to wind itself up in an apparent bid to pre-empt the findings of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
The Commission, whose members met in full for the last time last week, has agreed to make a fresh start under a new name and is now in what a spokesman called “a period of transition.”
The move, engineered by Commission chairman Lord Hunt, appears designed to put in place a new system of so-called “self regulation” to head off calls for a statutory regulator.
However it is not clear what powers the new body will have, as that is still dependent on the outcome of the inquiry.
A PCC spokesman said: “The Commission has agreed to move to a new body – including transferring staff, assets and liabilities.”
Lord Hunt paved the way for the announcement in an interview with Sky News last month.
He said on that occasion: “Last week the Press Complaints Commission met and agreed that we would in principle move now to a new body, for the first time a press regulator with teeth.
“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.”
The demise of the PCC will be seen as a blow by its supporters in the regional press who argued that it did a good job for the industry.
However it was welcomed by the National Union of Journalists whose general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The PCC has shown itself to be incapable of genuine reform and must be dismantled.”
At present the new transitional body will be run by a three-member panel – Michael McManus, a former Conservative special adviser, who is director of transition, with communications director Jonathan Collett, who has previously acted as press adviser to former Conservative leader Michael Howard, and head of complaints Charlotte Dewar, who had previously worked for the Guardian.
PCC director Steven Abell left at the end of February, to take up a partnership with a PR consultancy.
Niri Shan, partner at international law firm Taylor Wessing, commented: “‘The decision to close the Press Complaints Commission seems premature given that the Leveson inquiry is ongoing.
“If the PCC do form a new body prior to his recommendations being published, further changes may need to be made which will just result in further upheaval for staff and the industry.”