In a press release sent out to journalists earlier today by News UK’s Director of Communications, Guto Harri, it was announced that the “newspaper and magazine industry” were taking the first steps towards the establishment of an “Independent Press Standards Organisation”.
The new body appears to be the brainchild of “PressBoF“, which registered the name in June. However the big media groups which dominate PressBoF – the publishers of the Sun, Telegraph and Mail – have kept in the background on the launch. The press release was signed by five individuals on behalf of the Newspaper Society, the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the Scottish Newspaper Society and the “Industry Implementation Group”.
The press release claims that the new body will be a “complete break with the past” and will deliver “all the key Leveson recommendations”.
On the Newspaper Society website the press release is accompanied by the following draft documents (one of which describes itself as “privileged and confidential”)
It appears that the Articles of Association are based on those submitted to Lord Justice Leveson by Lord Black in 2012 [pdf]. The articles provide that the board of the regulator shall comprise 7 independent directors (including the chair) and 5 “industry directors”. In nominating these directors the Appointments Panel shall “take account of the views of the Regulatory Funding Committee” (that is, the renamed PressBoF) as to suitability. The views of this body are also taken into account in appointing industry members of the complaints committee.
The regulations are based closely on those submitted to Lord Justice Leveson by Lord Black [pdf].
We will publish a more detailed analysis of the proposals shortly.
The new body was welcomed by the press but condemned by the victims campaigning organisation Hacked Off as “no more than a cynical rebranding exercise”, describing it as “News International’s new baby“. Professor Brian Cathcart, Executive Director of Hacked Off said:
“This is no more than a cynical rebranding exercise, the latest rearguard action by press proprietors and editors who want to defy the will of Parliament and of the Leveson Inquiry. They are determined to hold on to the power to bully the public without facing any consequences.
“They have been told by Lord Justice Leveson and by Parliament that they must set up a self-regulator that meets basic standards of independence and effectiveness. What they are saying here is that they will not meet those standards but they will meet their own, which are appallingly low.
“The body behind this is PressBoF, a small, shadowy group of powerful press bosses who were condemned by Leveson for the cynical way they pretended for decades to run a regulator but in fact secretly ensured that nothing it did would ever challenge their power.
“These same people are currently, through their lawyers, doing all in their power to stall the final approval of the Royal Charter based on Leveson and agreed by all parties in Parliament on 18 March.
“By their actions they are telling the public that they are not answerable to judges, and not subject to the democratic will of Parliament. They are telling us that they are outlaws.
“Hacked Off, their many supporters and the victims of press abuses will continue their campaign to bring them to book.”