Two new press standard bodies created after The Leveson Inquiry cause controversy amongst the press, as debate over statutory underpinning splits the industry.
Two new press standard bodies that were created post Leveson Inquiry have caused a divide in the industry over worries state involvement could threaten press freedom.
The Royal Charter and the Independent Press Standards Organisation, otherwise known as IPSO, were both created in response to criticism that the press’ former regulatory body, The Press Complaints Commission, failed to successfully regulate and discipline newspapers that had breached its code of practice.
“IPSO doesn’t have the Financial Times, The Telegraph or The Guardian. So it has the three big newspapers not in it” – John Mair, Ex-BBC producer and author.
The calls for a new press regulator came following criticism that the PCC failed to investigate the initial allegations of illegal phone hacking that took place at some British tabloids, like The News of the World and The Sun. Its powers were called into question during Module 4 the Leveson Inquiry in early 2012 which looked into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. But now both the new models lack press participation as some journalists believe state involvement is now needed to regulate the press, whereas others regard it as a threat to its freedom.
“There is no question of political control of the press. In fact, there is less political meddling under the Royal Charter scheme than there was in the PCC, which was run by political peer” – Brian Cathcart, Director of ‘Hacked Off”.
The Royal Charter, created by the three main political parties, will create a watchdog to oversee a new press regulator. It’s been met with hostility and criticism from publishers who fear this state involvement could infringe on press freedom.
Kelvin Mackenzie, Former Editor of The Sun, says that ‘For the first time in my life time this gives an alley way into controlling the press. All politicians want to control criticism’.
Media organisations have been free to sign up to the Charter system as well as being given incentives to do so, which controversially have become law. For example, in a libel case, The Crime and Courts Act 2013 advises courts to treat publishers differently. Publishers outside the regulator run the risk of exemplary damages if they lose a case, and even the risk of a £1m fine if a story breaches its code on conduct. But it is still yet to see full press participation in spite of these incentives.
Former Executive Editor of The Sun, Chris Roycroft-Davis, said: ‘There are more than enough laws which govern what the press can and can’t do without having to sign up to the Royal Charter. We most certainly do not need statutory regulation, the press are perfectly capable of running their own system…it’s human nature not to do something that’s going to be imposed on you. The press can do a better job’
Publishers have scorned the Royal Charter system and in response created IPSO. Brian Cathcart, Director of Hacked Off, supports full industry participation in the Charter system and has labelled IPSO a ‘sham’ and ‘the PCC all over again’ as it’s been created by some of the papers investigated for phone hacking.
Like its counterpart, IPSO can also impose fines of up to £1million and also gives incentives for the press to sign up. Former editors can sit on its recognition panel, unlike the Charter system, and ensures a fast complaints system. Former BBC producer, John Mair, says ‘it still needs the support of The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Telegraph’. But these papers are reluctant to sign up to IPSO saying it’s not independent enough from the newspaper industry.
The newspaper industry is now left with two systems of regulation which both lack full industry participation due to the controversy over the cross-party Royal Charter system. It’s angered journalists over its potential threat to the freedom the press whereas other journalists supporting statutory regulation, are left unhappy with IPSO allegedly failing to be independent from the press.