SIR Christopher Meyer, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), has today dismissed the Media Standards Trust report criticising the press watchdog as a "cuttings job masquerading as a serious inquiry".
The Media Standards Trust, an independent journalistic ethics charity, published a report today claiming that press-self-regulation overseen by the PCC in its current form was not working and that radical changes needed to be made.
However, speaking on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Meyer condemned the report.
"Below the rather self-important title, the Media Standard Trust and the glittering array of people that sit on its board, I have to say this is a careless and shoddy report. It is full of assertions, unsupported by the evidence on privacy on public confidence and transparency," he said.
Also on Today, Sir David Bell, chairman of the MST and the Financial Times, said the revolution going on in media meant the PCC was no longer fit for purpose.
Bell added that the PCC was not transparent or sufficiently accountable, did not deal with enough complaints and was not sufficiently well-known.
Meyer, who is stepping down from the PCC at the end of March after six years as chairman to be replaced by Peta Buscombe, the Advertising Association chief executive, took particular issue with the suggestion that the PCC was not accountable.
"We are scrutinised by an independent charter commissioner, an independent charter panel and all the way in which we organise ourselves is absolutely transparent," he said. "If this trust had made the attempt to come to the PCC and take evidence from me, take evidence from my colleagues they might have found this."
Meyer added that it was "an absolute outrage" that the trust had not come to talk to his organisation prior to publication and went on to call the report a "cuttings job masquerading as an serious inquiry".
"This report has been put out, it is one of the leading items on the Today programme, it can affect people that would otherwise look to come to the PCC for remedies and you're telling me that only then will you come and take evidence from the body you are criticising. This is not good practise," he said.
However, Bell defended the report, saying the National Consumer Council has 15 standards by which it judges regulatory bodies and that the PCC fails on 12 of them.
"What we are saying is that there is a revolution in newspapers and the PCC is inadequate in dealing with it and it needs to be reformed," he added.
Today host John Humphrys put it to Meyer that the PCC had a role to play in the declining public confidence in newspapers, particularly mid-market titles.
But Meyer responded: "If we are going to talk about public confidence, what we have to look at is confidence in the PCC as opposed to confidence in journalism. We have record numbers of people coming to us for advice and for help. The numbers have doubled since I became chairman in 2003. This has to be seen as a vote of confidence in our ability to remedy complaints."
Meyer said the assertion put to him by Humphrys that the PCC only upholds one in every 250 complaints was the "statistics of the madhouse".