2014 yearIn 2014 the slow process of Leveson implementation continued with the constitution of the Recognition Panel and the continuing development of IMPRESS.  Meanwhile, the press continued its policy of delay and refusal to implement the Leveson recommendations. 

Despite initially planning to close down by May 2014, the Press Complaints Commission (“PCC”) continued operating through the summer, finally being replaced by Independent Press Standards Organisation (“IPSO”) on 9 September.  The new body opened with little fanfare, without a chief executive in post or sufficient budget.  It was a self described non-Leveson compliant organization.

Furthermore, the new organisation appeared remarkably similar to the old: operating from the same offices, under the same company number and with many of the same staff. “It’s as if hacking never happened and the Leveson inquiry never happened” argued The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, who highlighted the lack of transparency and structural change.

To add to the confusion IPSO remained remarkably quiet, publishing no decisions in its first months and remaining almost silent on social media. The PCC, in contrast, continued to make adjudications and “resolve” complaints from “beyond the grave”.

On 23 December 2014 IPSO briefly awoke, announcing “3,000 complaints received in first four months [sic] of new press regulator”.  On the same day IPSO published five decisions of its Complaints Committee (described, variously, as “rulings” and “adjudications”).

These were some of the important “press regulation highlights” of 2014:

  • In January 2014 it was announced that the IPSO appointments panel would consist of two press representatives and three others. The new body was described by Roy Greenslade as “the PCC with extra bells and whistles”.
  • On 4 February 2014 the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications published its report on Media Plurality. While the report neglects the issue of how Parliament should lay down clear guidelines to protect against concentrations of media power, it nevertheless provided a basis for an upheaval of Britain’s plurality framework.
  • In February 2014 the PCC published two tables of statistics detailing recorded breaches of the Code, following complaints, as well as resolved complaints between 2011 and 2013. The Daily Mail topped both categories in what was described as this “PCC league of shame”, with the Sun coming a distant second.
  • On 31 March 2014 regulator ATVOD, (Authority for Television on Demand)  published research which shows the scale of access by underage children to adult websites [pdf].  The regulator has called for the Government to take action to protect children from exposure to hardcore porn online.
  • On 29 April 2014 it was announced that soon to retire Court of Appeal judge Sir Alan Moses was to be appointed as the first chair of IPSO. Hacked Off responded that the appointment changed nothing as the structure of IPSO was “fatally flawed”.
  • On 1 May 2014, PressBoF was refused permission to appeal against the dismissal of its judicial review application. PressBoF  had sought an injunction to restrain the consideration by the Privy Council of the Cross-Party Royal Charter and judicial review of the Privy Council’s rejection of the PressBoF proposed Royal Charter
  • By May 2014 the PCC’s close down date passed by with business as usual. It continued to operate through summer, although it was sometimes unclear who was in charge.
  • On 26 June 2014, David Wolfe QC was appointed Chair of the Recognition Panel, set up under the Royal Charter on the Self-Regulation of the Press.
  • On 30 June 2014 the Media Standards Trust commissioned a poll which showed that IPSO did not meet public expectations for a new press regulator. 67% believe there is a risk of repeated unethical and illegal practices if most newspapers join IPSO.
  • In July 2014 IMPRESS Project announced the launch of  an arbitration service to resolve media law disputes involving journalists and announced the appointment of Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network, as the Chair of the IMPRESS Appointment Panel.
  • On 4 August 2014 IPSO announced the appointment of former civil servant Matt Tee as its Chief Executive. The appointment was welcomed by the PR industry and Murdoch papers but questioned by Hacked Off and Roy Greenslade.
  • In August 2014 an analysis of the performance of the UK press revealed a sharp decline in standards compared to the same period in 2013. Hacked Off showed that the number of resolved complaints handled by the PCC, where the Press admitted it broke its own Editors’ Code and offered redress, was up nine per cent.
  • September 2014, the Media Standards Trust publishedthe first comprehensive analysis [pdf] of UK national newspaper coverage of press regulation following the publication of the Leveson Report. The unsurprising finding was that the coverage was largely negative.
  • On 8 September the Press Complaints Commission finally closed down and was replaced by IPSO. The launch was a quiet one. IPSO Chairman Sir Alan Moses admitted the body was not Leveson compliant but insisted it would be independent. Hacked Off denounced IPSO as a “sham regulator”. Media academic Damian Tambini suggested that there were “Three months to save IPSO”.
  • On 28 October 2014 the Charity Commission refused to register a body called the Independent Press Regulation Trust whose stated aim is to provide financial assistance to IMPRESS, the independent press regulator.
  • On 3 November 2014 the Press Recognition Panel established under theRoyal Charter on self-regulation of the press came into existence as a legal entity when the five initial members of the Board took up their appointments.
  • In November 2014 the IMPRESS project appointed its first chair, Walter Merricks.
  • On 3 December 2014, Tom Watson MP, at the invitation of Hacked Off, gave the Second Annual Leveson Lecture. There was an Inforrm post about this.
  • On 12 December 2014, IMPRESS announced the members of its first board.
  • On 23 December 2014, IPSO sprung into life, publishing its first five “rulings” and a press release.

Tessa Evans is a journalist and researcher.  She tweets @tessadevans