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New chairman shares his ideas for the future

The Press Complaints Commission’s new chairman has spoken of his commitment to the self-regulation of the press and of his ideas of how best to build on the commission’s work.

During a speech at the Newspaper Society’s Annual General Meeting, Sir Christopher Meyer told members of the regional press of his high regard for the British newspaper industry.

He said: “I have worked and lived in seven different countries. I have been an avid reader of newspapers in all of them, with greater pleasure in some more than others.

“I am not, and never will be, the spokesman for the British newspaper industry. But I believe that the British press – regional, national, weekly, magazine – provides a better service to its readers than any other newspaper industry in the world. And this includes that of the United States, even with the protection of the First Amendment.”

He set out eight ideas in which to improve the work of the PCC, including the creation of a new lay member place.

He said: “The PCC’s Articles of Association envisage a Commission of up to 17 people. So why not strengthen the lay majority, so crucial to our authority and credibility, by appointing an extra lay member?

“That would then make the balance on the Commission 10 to 7 – a clear, tangible, forceful sign of the PCC’s independence and objectivity.”

And he suggested advertising openly for that new lay member across the UK, and applying this to future lay members.

Sir Christopher’s other proposals included introducing an annual customer service audit, creating a uniform way of presenting adjudications and increasing the number of newspapers and magazines carrying contact details for the PCC.

He said: “It might lead to more complaints! So be it. That is a small price to pay for increasing the visibility and accessibility of the service we offer.”

As well as highlighting how he would like to see the PCC improved, Sir Christopher also ruled out four “heresies”, including that the PCC should have the power to levy fines or award compensation or come under the power of Ofcom.

He concluded: “The name of the game is independence, proactivity, transparency, visibility, accountability: all qualities already entrenched in the PCC and its Code, but which can, in my view, be significantly enhanced.”

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