£250k spent on deciding who will appoint press regulation recognition panel

The Government is spending up to £250,000 on deciding who will choose a press regulation recognition panel which may ultimately have nothing to do.

The recognition panel is needed to decide whether or not any new system of press regulation measures up to the Royal Charter on press regulation. This official recognition is needed to protect members of the regulator from the threat of punitive damages in libel and privacy cases.

The only press regulator which is currently being set up is the Independent Press Standards Organisation and it has indicated that it has no intention of applying for official recognition. Another regulator has been proposed called Impress but it has yet to reveal any members or significant funding.

Commissioner for public appointments Sir David Normington is tasked with selecting the appointments committee that will decide who sits on the board of a recognition panel.

He told the Public Administration Select Committee he had received nothing except "a lot of grief" for taking on the extra responsibility but said funding for the work had been allocated to his office.

He said: "It's a quite limited role and my job under the Royal Charter is to appoint the appointments committee, which then has the job of appointing the body that's going to oversee press regulation.

"It's not to appoint that body. It's to appoint the appointments committee and that's what I have done.

"I have selected the appointments committee but they then, under the Royal Charter, make the appointment."

He added: "I have got nothing personally out of this except quite a lot of grief. My office, which is supporting the appointments committee in running the competition and so on, has actually been given around £250,000."

Press owners' body Pressbof is pursuing a legal challenge to get the cross-party press regulation Royal Charter thrown out and its own Royal Charter instead adopted. Most national and regional newspaper publishers and magazine publishers have signed up to IPSO which is set to be up and runnin by 1 May.

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