The Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBoF) announced today that Lord David Hunt will be the next chairman of the Press Complaints Commission . He will take up his appointment on 17 October 2011 – next Monday.
David Hunt, who is 69, is a solicitor with the firm of Beachcroft – which he joined in 1965, having graduated in law from Bristol University. He become a partner in 1969 and was senior partner from 1996 to 2005. He was the Conservative MP for the Wirral and then Wirral West from 1976 to 1997 and was a member of the Thatcher and Major governments from 1979 to 1995. His cabinet jobs including Secretary of State for Wales and Employment.
As Roy Greenslade puts it on his blog, David Hunt has been chosen as ‘wartime’ PCC chief. He was one of 6 candidates who were shorlisted. Greenslade (an advocate of the “PCC plus” regulatory option) goes on to comment
“Hunt has not been appointed on an interim basis, so it must be assumed that he is confident he can hold the PCC together. He is certainly going to have his work cut out or he could be the shortest-lived of PCC chairs. He must find a way of transforming a body that has proved itself adept as a mediator and arbitrator into a credible regulator”.
The PCC press release on the appointment contains the following quote from Lord Hunt:
“I am delighted I shall be leading the crucially important process of wholesale regeneration and renewal of the system of independent self-regulation of the press. My job is to ensure we create in due course an effective, genuinely independent standards body, which enjoys the overwhelming respect and support of the media, our political leaders and the general public.
“Throughout my political life I have fought for freedom of expression; and a free press is the distinctive and indispensable hallmark of any truly free, civilised society. I have no desire to live in a country where the legitimate, lawful investigative activities of the press are fettered at the whim of politicians. That would not be freedom at all.
“Those who work for newspapers or their digital off-shoots are, however, rightly bound by the law of the land, just like everyone else. They should also abide by recognised standards of professionalism, consideration and common decency.
“The PCC already plays an invaluable role, delivering fast, free and fair treatment of complaints from members of the public, as and when a newspaper has overstepped the line. There is a real appetite for change, however, and it is my intention to drive forward the creation of a reinvigorated and respected standards body, funded by the industry but operationally independent from both the industry and the state.”
The Press Release goes on to quote the Chairman of PressBoF, Lord Black of Brentwood as saying:
“On behalf of my colleagues in the national and regional newspaper and magazine industry, I am delighted that Lord Hunt has accepted our invitation to become Chairman of the PCC. His appointment follows a rigorous selection process, including for the first time an independent assessment, which identified an extremely strong field of candidates.
“David Hunt’s wide-ranging experience in politics, in the law and in regulation and above all his unshakeable commitment to the principles of press freedom and self-regulation make him the ideal person to lead the process of renewal and regeneration which is now essential. His commitment to making those changes is clear, and he will have the full support of the industry as he sets about this urgent task. “