Press regulator IPSO to commission external review to test 'independence and effectiveness'

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has announced plans to commission an external review to test its "independence and effectiveness".

The move comes as the Press Recognition Panel, backed by the Royal Charter on press regulation, began accepting applications earlier this month.

Speaking at the Protecting the Media Conference in London, IPSO chief executive Matt Tee reiterated that IPSO would not be seeking recognition under the Royal Charter process. This means IPSO members, under the Crime and Courts Act, could face paying both sides' legal costs even if they win privacy and libel cases.

Tee said: "It's an article of theology in the press that they do not want to be part of a regulator that's covered by the Recognition Panel. We will not be applying for recognition."

He noted that seeking recognition from the PRP is one of the few ways in which members of IPSO could be released from their five-year contracts.

Tee said that IPSO will instead be advertising for an individual to conduct a review of the body and publish a report in their own name.

The chief executive said he thought this "goes further than a lot of regulators go". 

Tee also said he expected to soon announce changes to IPSO rules which were first called for by chairman Sir Alan Moses in January this year.

He said this move to "simplify" IPSO's regulations will "make it clearer and easier how we can bring standards investigations against publishers".

He used the example of a Daily Express story headlined "39 of the world's worst mugshots" to explain how IPSO is seeking to raise press standards.

Following a complaint to IPSO from the charity Changing Faces, he said, the story was quickly taken down from the Express website and IPSO is now working on new guidelines for journalists about how to cover facial disfigurement.

Tee said: "I wish that article never appeared. Given that it did appear I think we took appropriate action and achieved a resolution they [Changing Faces] were happy with."

Press Gazette asked Tee how he thought the Crime and Courts Act would affect members of IPSO.

Tee said: "A number of features that would need to be in place for a Royal Charter compliant regulator we will also have. We have just finished consultation on an arbitration scheme.

"I think it will be up to the members to seek advice about whether having these features will afford them any protection."

The penalties for non-regulated publishers under Crime and Courts Act could come into force in November this year, at the point when rival press regulator Impress may get official recognition from the PRP.

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