Monday 8 July 2013

Press industry goes it alone on regulation

The press industry has decided to go it alone and set out plans for a new regulator - called the Independent Press Standards Organisation to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

The move is backed by the Newspaper Society, the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Scottish Newspaper Society and the PPA, which represents magazine publishers.

"The Independent Press Standards Organisation will be a complete break with the past, and will deliver all the key Leveson recommendations," the publishers said in a joint statement.

They added: "The establishment of the Independent Press Standards Organisation does not depend on approval of a royal charter, as the prime minister made clear to parliament on March 18: 'The royal charter does not set up a self-regulator; that is for the press to do'."

A spokesman for Guardian publisher Guardian News & Media, which along with the Financial Times and Independent publishers has not signed up to all elements of the newspaper industry regulator, said: "We look forward to receiving the documents and participating in the consultation."
A group put together by the PCC chairman Lord Hunt and chaired by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the former supreme court president, is in place ready to start selecting the appointments panel for the new body.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation says it would have:
  • A majority of independent members at every level, and no industry veto on appointments.
  •  The power to impose £1m fines for serious or systemic wrong-doing.
  • Upfront corrections and adjudications – whether editors like it or not.
  • A standards and compliance arm with investigative powers to call editors to account.
  •  An Arbitration Service to offer a speedy and inexpensive alternative to the libel courts, subject to the successful conclusion of a pilot scheme.
  • A whistleblowers’ hotline.
  •  A warning service to alert the press, and other media such as broadcasters, when members of the public make it clear that they do not wish to be the subject of media attention.

The industry statement says that Ipso would have powers to impose fines of up to £1m and ensure that corrections and adjudications were published "whether editors like it or not".

The whistleblowers' hotline would allow journalists to object to editors who ask them to do anything they consider is unethical. The NUJ has long campaigned  for journalists' contracts to include a "conscience clause" which would stop journalists being sacked if they objected to being asked to carry out unethical journalism.

There has been speculation that the industry needed to act quickly ahead of the autumn trials of former News International executives Rebekkah Brooks and Andy Coulson which are expected to attract huge coverage. It is thought setting up Ipso could take several months.

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell commented: “Editors will welcome moves to take plans for a new independent and more powerful press body forward. The steps announced today put flesh on the principles behind a new body agreed during and after the Leveson Inquiry.

“The new system will be able to earn the confidence of editors and the public and will quickly become effective. It will be independent and robust. It will have the ability to deal with any of the issues discussed over the last two years. It will have new powers including fines and it will be capable of dealing with rapid changes in the media industry.

“The industry needs this and so do the public. The process should not be interfered with by attempts to delay the adoption of the new system by those politicians and others who would prefer to neuter the press.

“Revelations over the past few months including those about the police and the health service show just how important it is to have a free and fearless media.”

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