An advert for the new press regulator has been banned for "misleadingly" claiming that it will deliver "all the key elements Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report".
The ad for the Independent Press Standards Organisation was placed in The Times on 25 October by the Free Speech Network, an umbrella group made up of UK, European and global publishers and editors.
- July 31, 2020
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The ad was headlined: "Ready to go: a tough new regulator for the press", and continued: "Today sees the launch of a tough new regulator for the press – the toughest in the Western world.
"The new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will be up and running early next year, and will deliver all the key elements Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report.
"It will guarantee the British public enjoy the standard of journalism they deserve. And it will ensure Britain remains not just the birthplace, but the home of free speech."
The ad went on to list seven subheadings – "tough sanctions", "upfront corrections", "investigating powers", "genuine independence", "no cost to the public", "'the support of the newspaper and magazine industry", and '"free speech guaranteed", with more information under each title.
The Media Standards Trust (MST) and two members of the public objected to the ad, maintaining that there were a number of elements in the Leveson report that IPSO would not deliver.
The MST also complained that the "genuine independence" claim was misleading because it said IPSO was not entirely independent of all political parties or of the newspaper industry.
The Free Speech Network said the ad stated that IPSO would "deliver all the key elements Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report" highlighting the term "key", and not "deliver all the elements".
Given the use of the qualifying term "key", they considered that the claim could not be interpreted on a wider basis, namely that IPSO would deliver every aspect of every recommendation and suggestion in the 2000-page report.
They did not consider that the ad suggested that Lord Justice Leveson had expressly set out "key" elements in his report and did not consider that readers would reasonably assume that from the wording of the ad.
The Free Speech Network said the ad stated that the board of IPSO would have a majority of independent members and an independent chair, chosen in a transparent and open process, and that in any event IPSO met the standards of independence proposed by Lord Justice Leveson in his report.
Upholding the first complaint, the Advertising Standards Authority said: "We considered that the ad's readers, whilst familiar with the general issues relating to press regulation, would be unlikely to have detailed knowledge of the content of the Leveson report.
"We thought it likely they would assume from the ad, wrongly, that the sub-headings formally set out those issues which had been expressly defined as "key elements" in the Leveson report, and which should be implemented by a proposed press regulator.
"We did not consider whether the specific elements raised by the complainants were or were not met, but considered that the ad implied more certainty around which might be the "key elements" than was the case and therefore concluded that it was misleading on that basis."
The ASA did not uphold the second complaint, saying that readers would infer from the ad's claims that the members of the IPSO board, or those involved in establishing IPSO, were expected to be impartial in the work they carried out.
Two other complaints, that the ad's claim that "Politicians are trying to force the press to sign up to a royal charter…controlled by politicians" was misleading because the Royal Charter system was voluntary and because politicians were excluded from the recognition body that was set up by the Royal Charter, were also not upheld.
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form.
The Free Speech Network was launched with the backing of newspaper and magazine publishers in 2012 to argue against state regulation of the press.