media-standards-trustThe Media Standards Trust has today published the first external assessment of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) [pdf], the self-regulatory system put forward by sections of the newspaper industry.

The analysis shows that, instead of delivering “all the key elements Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report”, as the advertisement for IPSO has claimed,

  • IPSO satisfies only 12 of the 38 Leveson recommendations that are needed for a press self-regulator to be independent and effective
  • IPSO is not independent – it is acutely dependent on the industry, which has influence over almost every aspect of the system and, in many cases, a veto
  • IPSO institutionalizes the power of the largest publishers – through the industry funding body (RFC)
  • IPSO will not ensure access to legal redress for ordinary people
  • IPSO’s complaints system is virtually unchanged from the PCC

In the first detailed external assessment of the final IPSO documents, the Media Standards Trust finds that the proposed new regulator falls far short of fulfilling Leveson’s recommendations for an independent and effective self-regulator of the press.

IPSO has claimed, in national newspaper advertisements, that it “will deliver all of the key elements Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report”. Yet this assessment shows that IPSO satisfies only 12 of the 38 recommendations for a self-regulator. It fails 20 – over half. It is unclear, based on the information currently available, whether it would satisfy the other 6 recommendations.

Some of the recommendations IPSO does satisfy would represent considerable improvements to the current system of self-regulation, for instance:

  • Improved internal complaints and compliance processes at news organisations
  • A whistleblowing hotline for journalists
  • Protecting journalists from disciplinary action when they refuse to breach the code of practice

Yet IPSO fails to deliver many of the most fundamental aspects of the Leveson system, most notably:

  • Independence from the industry: IPSO’s budget, its rules, its code, its sanctions, its investigations, will all be controlled by the industry, via the funding body which replaces PressBoF (the RFC). IPSO will not be able to offer an arbitration service, or make changes to the system of regulation, without the agreement of the industry executives on the RFC.
  • Independence from politicians: IPSO allows the participation of Party Political Peers and MEPs on the regulator and associated bodies
  • Access to legal redress: IPSO does not deliver a central element of Leveson’s recommendations – low cost arbitration. No IPSO member will ever be obliged to offer access to justice to ordinary victims of press abuse through arbitration
  • Complaints regulation: IPSO, like the PCC, acts as a middleman between complainants and publishers, rather than a regulator. Like the PCC, most code breaches will go unrecorded
  • Investigations & sanctions: the investigations process is not ‘simple and credible’ as Leveson said it ought to be. It allows for up to six interventions by the publisher, and none by the victim.

Based on this assessment, IPSO appears to repeat what Sir Brian Leveson described as a pattern of cosmetic reform, that has characterised press self-regulation for 70 years. It maintains many of the flaws of the old system, and in some cases institutionalizes them.

Martin Moore, director of the MST said

Leveson said that any new system of press self-regulation had to work for the public as well as for the pressIPSO fails the public at the most basic level – it does not provide access to justice or independent regulation’.