Newspapers set to ignore Royal Charter on press regulation
Ian Burrell
The newspaper and magazine industries have announced a timetable for the ‘toughest regulator anywhere in the developed world’, in a move designed to outflank politicians and bypass a Royal Charter on press regulation due to go before the Queen next week.
In a dramatic development in the saga prompted by the tabloid phone-hacking scandal, the industry set out final plans for the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which could be operational by next year. Newspapers are due to begin signing contracts for the new body in the coming weeks.
The Industry Implementation Group, a consortium of national and regional newspaper and magazine trade bodies, published 80 pages of legal documents on a dedicated new Ipso website in what the main political parties will see as a direct challenge to the system proposed in a parliament-approved Royal Charter, which was fiercely opposed by almost all sections of the press. The newspaper industry has also applied for a judicial review of the rejection of its own Royal Charter on press regulatory reform by a Privy Council sub-committee.
In a statement, Paul Vickers, the group’s chairman and executive director of Trinity Mirror plc, said the Ipso plans were the result of nine months of work following the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report on press reform.
“I am confident that what we have produced will be the toughest regulator anywhere in the developed world — one which will guarantee the public the protection it deserves, but also ensure we maintain the free press on which our democracy is founded,” he said.
The Ipso system will create a regulator with ‘tough powers’ of investigation, enforcement and sanction, the group said. It will also be able to impose fines of up to £1m on errant publishers who will now be asked to sign Ipso contracts. The new body has the backing of the Newspaper Society, which represents the regional press, and the PPA, trade body for the magazine sector.
Ipso will be run by individuals chosen via an independent appointments process set up by a Foundation Group headed by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, a former judge and president of the Supreme Court.
Mr Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, said the system ensured that editors would be `three steps removed’ from Ipso’s complaints process. `Whatever other things are happening, Ipso can be up and running in 2014,’ he said.
The Ipso plans were largely set out in a Royal Charter put forward by most of the press but rejected by a sub-committee of the Privy Council, which ruled it was not compliant with Leveson. A separate charter originally drawn up by political parties in March and amended this month is due to be considered by the Privy Council next week. The Independent is considering its position on the MPs’ charter, while large newspaper groups ~ including the publishers of the Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Telegraph ~ have objected to the proposals, which include plans for an arbitration system and potential exemplary damages imposed on newspapers that do not sign up. the independent