Most national and regional newspaper publishers sign contracts on IPSO regulator in defiance of Royal Charter

Richard Desmond new

Some 90 per cent of national newspaper publishers are said to have signed contracts on joining the Independent Press Standards Organisation system of regulation in defiance of the cross-party Royal Charter.

Express Newspapers (which has boycotted the Press Complaints Commission for several years) is in. The Financial Times, Guardian  and Independent titles have yet to sign up. They have previously expressed concern that IPSO repeats the mistakes of the past by giving the big publishing groups too much influence.

A Guardian spokesperson said: "The Guardian has not ruled out joining IPSO in the future, but – along with one or two other national papers – has concerns about some aspects of the proposed regulator, which we continue to discuss. We have consistently argued for a regulator that is independent of politicians and credible with the public. We will continue to engage in conversations with all concerned parties in order to help achieve this." 

The Newspaper Society has put out a statement on behalf of the Industry Implementation Group (which represents most UK newspaper and magazine publishers) saying:

“Publishers from across the national, regional, local and periodical press have been meeting today to sign contracts to establish the new Independent Press Standards Organisation.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with publishers representing more than 90 per cent of the national press and the vast majority of the regional press, along with major magazine publishers, signing. 

“This is an important milestone in the process of setting up the UK's new self-regulatory system.

“We will therefore now move to complete the full implementation of IPSO – which will be an independent, tough and effective regulator fully in line with the principles of the Leveson Report – by 1st May next year.

“Independent appointments procedures for IPSO are also underway and further announcements on the application and selection timetable will be made in due course by Sir Hayden Phillips.”

The final constitution of IPSO has not changed meaning the new regulator is unlikely to get approval from a Royal Charter-backed recognition body. The Government has already said that the IPSO system lacks the necessary independence from the industry to get recognition and also fails because it does not include a compulsory system of libel arbitration.

This means publishers will not be protected from the threat of punitive libel costs under the Crime and Courts Act.

However, the Department of Culture Media and Sport has put out a statement welcoming the IPSO move.

A spokesman said: "Both the Industry and the Government agree self-regulation of the press is the way forward.  We also both agree a Royal Charter is the best framework for that.

“We welcome the progress the press has made in setting up a self-regulator – that is exactly what they should be doing.  

“The choice of whether to apply for recognition lies with the industry.  We would encourage them to look at that, in order to access the valuable legal incentives that will be available to members of a recognised self-regulator.”  

Independent editor Chris Blackhurst said: “We are considering our position at the moment. We have met with Sir Hayden Philips and we are encouraged by what we heard.”

The new body has powers to issue £1m fines and launch investigations into serious wrongdoing. No editors will sit on the complaints-handling committee and it avoids the possibility will publishers will drop out if a decision goes against them by binding everyone in with contracts.

A Newspaper Society spokesman told Press Gazette: "This is the start of an ongoing process and the first publishing groups to sign up to Ipso include Northern & Shell, Telegraph Media Group, Associated, News UK, Trinity Mirror, Newsquest Media Group, Local World, Archant, and Tindle Newspapers, with more publishers committed to joining in the coming weeks. The major magazine publishers were signing up this afternoon."

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