Government may 'welcome' fact publishers have signed up to IPSO regulator but the law it backed will penalise members

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The Government is acting like a drunken dad who beats his kids and then buys them presents when it comes to the press at the moment.
 
Last night the DCMS issued a statement saying that it welcomes the news that most publishers have signed up to the IPSO system of press regulation.
 
Welcome it or not, the Government has created a legal regime which intends to punish publishers in the libel courts for being part of this new system.
 
IPSO does not conform to the rules set out in the Royal Charter on press regulation passed by the Privy Council. This means members could have libel costs awarded against them even if they win libel cases and they will be subject to the threat of punitive exemplary damages.
 
The Government is saying, it seems, that it is happy for publishers to face this threat and won't push matters any more with further legislation. 
 
So what next?
 
The new IPSO system is not completely independent from owners and publishers (for the reasons I've set out it here). But it does create a much tougher system of self regulation which should avoid the excesses of the past.
 
In a case like phone-hacking and the News of the World, IPSO could convene a special inquiry to call witnesses and get to the bottom of the matter. As well as publishing corrections, publishers could be subject to fines of up to £1m in cases of extreme wrongdoing.
 
The Independent, Guardian and FT are unhappy because they have been steamrollered on IPSO and their concerns about lack of independence apparently ignored. They are the only major national publishers yet to sign up.
 
I am told by the Newspaper Society that the final IPSO documents which publishers signed yesterday are the same as the ones which were published in July. GMG said back then that the new system would end up being controlled by DMGT, the Telegraph and News UK (just like the old one).
 
But whatever the Indy, Guardian and FT's concerns are I suspect they will have to sign up to IPSO eventually because it is far more important that we have an imperfect system of self regulation than no system of self regulation at all. Hacked Off needs to realise this as well.
 
The most important thing from all this is that press standards improve and that ordinary people who are maltreated by newspapers in future have a fast, free and fair (to quote the PCC motto) way of getting redress. IPSO may be our best hope of delivering these objectives.

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