Prime Minister David Cameron this morning appeared to signal the end of the current system of self-regulation under the Press Complaints Commission.
Cameron said that ‘the way the press is regulated today is not working’– and described the PCC as ‘ineffective and lacking in rigour”.
He said that the ‘we need a new system entirely’that was ‘truly independent’of both the government and the press.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, Cameron confirmed that two separate inquiries will be held into the phone-hacking scandal: one looking into the failings of the original investigation and another looking at the wider issues of press behaviour, regulation and ethics.
He said a judge would be appointed to run an independent inquiry into phone-hacking and promised: “No stone will be left unturned.”
The panel will include people from a range of different backgrounds and it will be tasked with ‘cleaning up the press”.
Cameron wants the inquiry to get underway at the ‘earliest available opportunity, ideally this summer”.
The Prime Minister said he was “champing at the bit” to get the inquiries set up, claiming: ‘This is a black cloud that is hovering over the press, parliament and police.”
He admitted that politicians keen to win the support of newspapers had ‘turned a blind eye’to the issues, and failed to heed the warning such as the Information Commissioner’s 2006 report into newspapers’ use of private investigators.
‘We have all been in this together,’he said, ‘the police, the press and leaders of political parties. We have not gripped the issues.’
Cameron compared the current crisis in the UK media to the expenses scandal, adding: “You can downplay it and deny that the problem is deep, or you can accept the seriousness of situation and deal with it”.
UPDATE 8/7/11 12.58pm:
The PCC has released the following statement in response to Cameron’s comments:
“The Press Complaints Commission has noted the Prime Minister’s statement today.
“We welcome that there will be a fair and open, evidence-based inquiry. We are confident that such an inquiry will recognise the considerable successes of the Press Complaints Commission, to which the Prime Minister himself referred some weeks ago.
“We do not accept that the scandal of phone hacking should claim, as a convenient scalp, the Press Complaints Commission. The work of the PCC, and of a press allowed to have freedom of expression, has been grossly undervalued today.
“However, as the PCC has said consistently, it believes that the outcome of phone hacking should be a more independent PCC. It is confident that it is precisely what the Prime Minister’s inquiry will also have to conclude. There should be fundamental reform of the system, as we have already recognised and called for. But the PCC can, in the final evaluation, play its part in this. It is already doing so, and this can inform the work of the inquiry.
“Now, it is for the newspaper and magazine industry itself to make the case for their continued independence from Government.
“Meanwhile, the dedicated staff of the PCC will continue to serve the public (a service that effectively helps thousands of people every year), and uphold the ethical standards enshrined in the Code of Practice.”