A new report from the Media Standards Trust [pdf] has found that the press complaints handling body, IPSO, fails 25 out of 38 of Leveson’s recommendations for an effective and independent press regulator.

The report is a follow up on the Media Standard’s Trust’s 2013  assessment of the documentation on a regulatory system proposed by parts of the UK’s newspaper industry.

The 2013 Media Standards Trust report [pdf] assessed the extent to which the IPSO system satisfied the 38 recommendations that the 2012 Leveson Report laid out in support of a “genuinely independent
and effective system of self-regulation.” The 2013 report showed that IPSO satisfied just 12 of the 38 recommendations, failing to satisfy 20, with six cases where there was insufficient evidence to decide
whether IPSO satisfied the recommendation or not. The report also found an unnecessarily high degree of industry control over the IPSO system via the RFC.

The new report looks at the position in the light of the first five years of IPSO’s operations. The parts of the system that were unclear in the original 2013 articles and regulations have now been given sufficient time to demonstrate whether they satisfy the relevant Leveson Recommendations or not. There have also been some changes to IPSO’s powers and capabilities that have implications for whether and how the regulatory system satisfies the recommendations.

The new report reassesses the extent to which the IPSO system meets the minimum criteria set out in the Leveson Report for genuinely independent and effective regulation after five years. It finds that, of the 38 Leveson recommendations for a regulatory system, IPSO in 2019 satisfies 13 – just over one-third – and fails 25.

  • Of the six cases for which there was insufficient evidence in 2013 to determine whether or not IPSO satisfied the Leveson recommendation, subsequent evidence shows that IPSO fails to satisfy any.
  • There were two instances of changes to the IPSO system resulting in the regulator now satisfying recommendations it was previously judged not to satisfy; conversely, there was one case where IPSO now fails to satisfy a recommendation that was previously met.
  • In seven cases there have been changes to articles and regulations that relate to the satisfaction of recommendations, but in each case the regulator continues to fall short of doing so.

The report considers the review of the IPSO system by Sir Joseph Pilling conducted in 2016 which judged that IPSO satisfied 32 out of 38 recommendations.  It notes that  the Review rarely considered the role of the Regulatory Funding Company at any level of the IPSO system, in multiple cases gives IPSO credit for developments concerning the standards code over which the regulator has little or no power, and with several recommendations judges IPSO to have “adopted in full” recommendations that it has in fact unilaterally rejected as “impracticable.” The MST does not consider the arguments of the Pilling Review persuasive with regard to IPSO’s satisfaction of the Leveson recommendations.

Hacked Off, which campaigns for the full implementation of Leveson’s recommendations commented:

“As the only organisation to have performed an independent assessment of IPSO’s compliance with the Leveson recommendations, the 2013 version of which has never been rebutted, the MST have unparalleled expertise and credibility in this area. Their scathing judgment of IPSO as failing the majority of the Leveson recommendations blows apart the industry’s repeated claims of reform and change. … Perhaps most damning from the report is the extent to which IPSO remains controlled by the very industry it’s meant to regulate, with the Regulatory Funding Company found to be continuing to exert considerable influence over IPSO. The powers of the previous RFC-style body PressBoF over the old Press Complaints Commission system were identified by Leveson to represent a serious threat to its independence and ability to truly regulate the press. The fact that the RFC maintains its grip on IPSO means the complaints-handler remains a servant of the industry”.