Press body 'must aid good practice'
The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission has said he eagerly awaits the Leveson report into press standards and a new regulatory body "must not only be the scourge of bad practices" but also the "true and loyal friend of good journalism".
Addressing the annual conference of the Society of Editors, Lord Hunt said his own proposals for a new system of self regulation would embrace the "solemn, timeless, constitutionally vital role the press uniquely has".
Lord Hunt, a former MP who served as a Cabinet minister under Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major, said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) had not been able to keep up with developments in the media since it was set up 21 years ago, when it "did what it said on the tin".
He added: "A real press regulator is needed - and, in the terms in which I understand the word, the PCC has never really been a regulator at all. Its powers and remit are simply too informal and too limited."
Speaking of his own proposals, Lord Hunt said it would be a "radically different beast" to the existing PCC. And he said he was eager to learn what Lord Justice Leveson has made of his suggestions.
He added: "Nothing would make me happier than to see this proposal adopted yet again, in just a matter of weeks, this time as the Leveson Plan. The new regulator must not only be the scourge of bad practices. It must be the true and loyal friend of good journalism which, whilst it may not always be pretty, has at its heart, as its foundation stone, the public interest. Good, decent journalists must have nothing to fear from the system I propose."
Lord Hunt suggested that after the report has been published a conference could be held bringing together representatives of the press, campaigning groups and those involved in regulatory reform, adding that he would be happy to arrange such an event.
He said it was wrong to speculate on the report, adding: "That is all it is, however - speculation. It is patently absurd for campaigning groups to be threatening politicians with every kind of retribution, should they fail to enact reforms which are, as yet, unknown and unknowable. I for one am certainly not spoiling for a fight with Sir Brian Leveson. I am champing at the bit and awaiting my instructions."
Lord Justice Leveson is expected to publish the findings of his inquiry in the next few weeks.