Press regulator IPSO claims 'enhanced powers' after members approve rule changes

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has announced a four-year funding deal with the industry worth £10m and a series of changes to its rules which it claims have "enhanced its powers”.

But campaign group Hacked Off said: “After 15 months of IPSO claiming that radical changes to make it more effective and more independent of the industry are being secured urgently, these minor changes are a damp-squib.”

Additionally, Press Gazette understands IPSO is pressing on with setting up a low-cost arbitration scheme for settling libel and privacy complaints and has put it out to tender. But the scheme is expected to be optional for publishers.

The changes to IPSO rules were put to publishers for a vote in December.

The changes are:

  • Unlike the PCC, IPSO currently has no power to instigate inquiries in the absence of a complaint. The reformed regulations state that IPSO can now do so (within certain safeguards)
     
  • The new regulations strike out a number of ways in which a publisher can resist a standards investigation. They suggest taking away a publishers’ right to ask for a review when it is subject to a standards investigation and also taking away a 14-day notice period before such an investigation where a publisher can make objections
     
  • At the end of an investigation, IPSO has the power to issue fines of up to £1m. Currently the Financial Sanction Guidance on such fines is issued by the publishers’ representatives on the Regulatory Funding Company. The new rules give the IPSO board power to issue this guidance, in consultation with the RFC
     
  • The new rules give IPSO the power to insist a publisher issues quarterly statements as a sanction for breach of the Editors’ Code
     
  • The new rules suggest that publishers should have the right to request a review of a Complaints Committee decision (currently only complainants can do this)
  • IPSO proposes that its appointments committee should decide on the pay of directors, rather than the Regulatory Funding Company.

IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses said: “Critics told me I would face an obstinate and immovable press which would stand in the way of any reform. They said we wouldn’t be able to make any changes to our rules. They were wrong.

“We identified what we wanted to amend and have made fundamental and far-reaching improvements that will reinforce IPSO’s power to carry out its work free from interference by those we regulate or by parliament. These reforms will offer more protection to the public and allow us to provide a more effective service.”

Hacked Off’s Evan Harris said: “It’s all 'press release' and no 'press regulation'. The vice-like grip of the large newspaper groups over IPSO appointments, over its constitution and over its rule book continues.”

IPSO regulates most UK newspaper and magazine publishers. A small number of local and online publishers are regulated by rival regulator Impress. The Guardian, Observer, FT, Evening Standard, and Independent titles regulate themselves.

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