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Independent Press Standards Organisation

The newspaper and magazine industry today takes the first steps towards setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the new regulator for the press called for by Lord Justice Leveson.

In his report, Leveson was very clear that it should be the job of the industry to address the failures of the past by creating a new regulator: “…by far the best solution to press standards would be a body, established and organised by the industry, which would provide genuinely independent regulation of its members….” (Leveson p.1758)

The draft constitutional documents published today begin that process by setting out the structure and rules of the new Independent Press Standards Organisation. The documents, drawn up by the Industry Implementation Group chaired by Paul Vickers, Group Legal Director of Trinity Mirror, will now be considered by all 200-plus newspaper and magazine publishers with a view to final agreement in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile the independent Foundation Group chaired by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the former President of the Supreme Court, is already in position, ready to start the process of selecting the first members of the Appointment Panel for the new body.

The initiative has the support of Culture Secretary Maria Miller and the Government. The Culture Secretary told the industry at the end of May: “I would urge you… to continue with the work to set up the independent self-regulator as quickly as possible.”

The establishment of the Independent Press Standards Organisation does not depend on approval of a Royal Charter, as the Prime Minister made clear to Parliament on March 18: “The Royal Charter does not set up a self-regulator; that is for the press to do.”

This is important as the Royal Charter approval process, which begins this week with the setting-up of the Privy Council sub-committee, may take some months to complete. It is already eight months since Leveson delivered his report and the industry does not believe the public can be expected to wait longer before a new regulator is put in place.

The documents published today follow the criteria set out in the Royal Charter put forward by the industry, which is the only proposal under consideration by the Privy Council.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation will be a complete break with the past, and will deliver all the key Leveson recommendations:

  • A majority of independent members at every level, and no industry veto on appointments (Articles of Association 22,26,27).
  • The power to impose £1m fines for serious or systemic wrong-doing(Regulations 64, 65; Financial Sanctions Guidance 2).
  • Upfront corrections and adjudications – whether editors like it or not.(Regulations 18-22).
  • A standards and compliance arm with investigative powers to call editors to account. (Regulations 45-68).
  • An Arbitration Service to offer a speedy and inexpensive alternative to the libel courts, subject to the successful conclusion of a pilot scheme (Scheme Membership Agreement 5.4).
  • A whistleblowers’ hotline (Articles of Association 8.1.8, Scheme Membership Agreement 3.6).
  • A warning service to alert the press, and other media such as broadcasters, when members of the public make it clear that they do not wish to be the subject of media attention.

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.