Some MPs on the culture select committee clearly thought Lord Hunt and Michael McManus from the PCC were taking them for a ride yesterday with their insistence that the new press regulator IPSO does comply with Sir Brian Leveson's recommendations of November 2012 on the future regulation of the press.
Hunt has been ordered to go away and come up with a detailed rebuttall of Media Standards Trust analysis which said IPSO falls short of complying with Leveson.
- June 22, 2017
- June 20, 2017
- June 9, 2017
Well does IPSO measure up to Leveson? Up to a point.
Leveson's recommendations on how a future system of press reguation should work are embedded at the bottom of this article.
His first three deal with independence:
1. An independent self regulatory body should be governed by an independent Board. In order to ensure the independence of the body, the Chair and members of the Board must be appointed in a genuinely open, transparent and independent way, without any influence from industry or Government.
Lord Hunt (who is employed by the press industry) appointed Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers to create a foundation group which in turn created the appointments committee for IPSO. That committee includes two industry representatives – Times editor John Witherow and former Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks. It has not been an open and transparent process as far as I can see – the foundation group and then the appointments committee have simply been announced.
2. The appointment of the Chair of the Board should be made by an appointment panel. The selection of that panel must itself be conducted in an appropriately independent way and must, itself, be independent of the industry and of Government.
The panel is not independent of the industry – it has two industry representatives. Because the panel must achieve consensus, the industry appears to have a veto over appointments. Under IPSO, the appointments committee must also take account of the views of publishers via the Regulator Funding Committee.
3. The appointment panel: (a) should be appointed in an independent, fair and open way; (b) should contain a substantial majority of members who are demonstrably independent of the press
This is debateable – the majority is three-two.
Leveson said that the new regulator "should provide an arbitration service". IPSO says it may provide an arbitration service but only after completion of a pilot scheme, if publishers agree to it (via the Regulatory Funding Committee) and in any case it will be optional for publishers to take part. In my book this means IPSO fails on Leveson recommendations 22 and 26.
Ben Bradshaw MP firmly made the point yesterday that by ignoring the Royal Charter and not seeking recognition, IPSO breaks a fundamental rule of Leveson.
Recommendations 27-33 from Leveson deal with recognition. They make it clear that the Government needs to set up an independendent recognition body to judge whether or not any new press regulator is meeting the criteria set out in recommendations 1-24.
By making it clear that it won't be seeking recognition from the Royal Charter-backed recognition body, IPSO is probably not in the spirit of Leveson. But then again, recommendations 27-33 aren't for the press to fulfill, but are clearly directed at politicians and the Government.
I believe IPSO only explicitly breaks five of Leveson's 47 recommendations on the new self-regulation regime (1,2,3, 22 and 26). Which isn't bad, and at the end of the day Leveson's report is not holy writ – it is just one judge's recommendations.
Lord Hunt insisted yesterday that MPs should wait and see how IPSO operates and that it will be the independent and effective press regulator that Sir Brian Leveson had in mind. I hope it will be effective…but with the degree of influence which publishers have over appointments via the Regulatory Funding Committee it is difficult to describe IPSO as independent.