Having refused to meet Hacked Off, Sir Hayden Phillips, the man in charge of appointments to the big press groups’ planned son-of-PCC, now wants to opt out of email correspondence with Hacked Off and victims of press abuses.
This is a further sign of what can be expected from ‘IPSO’, a body which is the result of consultation by press executives with other press executives – and nobody else.
The Murdoch papers, the Mail and the Telegraph group would like us all to believe that IPSO will deliver a higher level of press accountability than the ‘toothless poodle’ PCC, but even before it has been launched IPSO is proving that it is not accountable at all.
We have written to Sir Hayden Phillips several times since he and the other non-industry members of his panel, Dame Denise Platt and Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, rejected our requests for face-to-face meetings. Now he has written back to say that ‘we are just going to have to agree to differ’.
This withdrawal from dialogue leaves unanswered several important questions we put to him, and through him Lord Brown and Dame Denise.
1. How do the panel members justify engaging with a process that is explicitly designed to defy the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry, the wishes of all parties in Parliament, the views of all the leading victims of press abuses and the preference of the public at large?
2. Do the panel members accept the analysis of IPSO by the Media Standards Trust which shows that IPSO only satisfies 12 out of 38 Leveson recommendations on press self-regulation? (No one has published any response finding fault with this analysis.)
3. Do the panel members agree that PCC-IPSO cannot be independent of the press industry when (a) the two ‘industry representatives‘ among their number can effectively exercise a veto over their work (thanks to the requirement for consensus) and (b) an industry body called the ‘Regulatory Funding Company’ will dominate IPSO by retaining veto powers in several policy areas and by holding the purse-strings?
4. Do they acknowledge that they were themselves appointed to the panel under a process that breached written public undertakings of openness given when IPSO was unveiled last November? (In a behind-closed-doors administrative process, the rules were simply altered without public consultation or announcement to permit a behind-closed-doors appointments process.)
5. What grounds have they to believe that the people who oversaw the PCC during the worst years of press abuses, and who still oversee it, and who are now responsible for setting up PCC-IPSO, can now, suddenly, be trusted to put the public’s interests before those of their own newspapers?
The failure to answer these questions is, in our view, a failure to show accountability. Instead Sir Hayden and his panel appear to be prepared to answer only to their industry paymasters.
Sir Hayden, Dame Denise and Lord Brown have all had long careers in public service. It is sad that they have chosen to risk their reputations by participating in what Lord Justice Leveson would undoubtedly classify as another cosmetic reform of the PCC.
It would be far sadder, however, if their reputations and their involvement helped to encourage anyone to believe that PCC-IPSO could deliver effective, proportionate and fair remedies for press wrongdoing and proper press regulation. PCC-IPSO will not do that. It is designed to prevent it from happening.