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New-look PCC must have more power say MPs

An influential committee of MPs and peers has given qualified backing to plans to replace the Press Complaints Commission with a “regulator with teeth.”

Lord Hunt, the PCC’s chairman until he himself decided to wind it up, last month called for a powerful new self-regulation body with the power to fine newspapers which fall foul of the Editor’s Code of Practice.

It would see publishers agreeing to being bound by contract to take part in the new body as an alternative to the statutory regulation which many politicians are thought to want to impose.

Lord Hunt proposed creating a new more powerful PCC with three arms: one for dealing with complaints, one for enforcing standards and one to mediate disputes and award compensation.

In a report today,  the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions said it was clear that media self-regulation under the PCC had not worked and a “stronger” system was needed.

Chairman John Whittingdale said: “The PCC’s successor must have teeth; it must be truly independent of the industry; it must incorporate all major news publishers.

“Parliament should have a central role in scrutinising the process of media reform. If it is judged that the new body is not proving effective, statutory oversight of the media regulator should be seriously considered.”

The report calls for the PCC to have “a wider range of sanctions” including the power to fine organisations and should be able to control “the size and location” of any published apology.

The committee, made up of MPs and peers, also said the new body would not work unless “all publishers” signed up to it and one way to ensure that would be to get advertisers to commit to only advertising in publications that are members.

Richard Desmond, the publisher of the Daily Express and Daily Star and their Sunday equivalents, and OK! magazine, withdraw his titles from the PCC in January last year.

The committee, set up following the spate of so-called ‘super-injunctions’ last year also came out against a new privacy law.

Mr Whittingdale said: “The Committee spent some time debating whether additional laws to clarify the right to privacy were necessary or desirable. However, we concluded that the existing position, where each case is judged by the courts on an individual basis, is now working reasonably well.”