Press Regulation: where are we now? - Communications Committee Contents

Press Regulation: where are we now?


The immediate past

1.  The UK's system of press regulation, which seeks to balance freedom of expression with protection of privacy, has undergone fundamental change over the last few years.

2.  In July 2011, news emerged that the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked by the News of the World newspaper, and that the Prime Minister had set up a public inquiry into press ethics, chaired by the Rt Hon Lord Justice Leveson.[3] The behaviour of the press and how it should be regulated became a major news story.

3.  Lord Justice Leveson's report, An inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press (hereafter the Leveson Report), was published on 29 November 2012. It found that, "There have been too many times when, chasing the story, parts of the press have acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist. This has caused real hardship and, on occasion, wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained."[4]

4.  On 30 October 2013, a Royal Charter on press self-regulation was granted. This was the culmination of almost a year of negotiations between political parties, the press and parliamentary debate on the best way forward following the publication of the Leveson Report.

5.  The Royal Charter allowed for one or more independent self-regulatory bodies for the press to be established. Any such body would be recognised and overseen by a Press Recognition Panel. Such a Panel came into existence on 3 November 2014.

6.  The Crime and Courts Act 2013 included provisions designed to provide a system of financial incentives for relevant publishers to sign up to the new regime.[5]

7.  The Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which had been the voluntary regulatory body for the industry, closed in September 2014. It was replaced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). IPSO is funded by the Regulatory Funding Company (RFC)—the successor to the Press Board of Finance (PressBof), which had funded the PCC.[6] In November 2014, The Independent Monitor of the Press (IMPRESS), the development organisation for a second regulatory body, appointed a Chairman in anticipation of the regulatory body it is forming being established. Neither IMPRESS nor IPSO has, as yet, sought recognition under the Royal Charter.

8.  Many newspaper groups have signed up to IPSO. The Guardian, The Independent and Financial Times are notable exceptions.[7] Some victims of press intrusion and Hacked Off (a campaign group for victims of press intrusion) have claimed that IPSO "is as much a 'sham regulator' as its predecessor."[8]

Why we carried out this inquiry

9.  It was against this background that the Committee decided to carry out a short inquiry into the current state of play regarding press regulation in the UK. The Committee noted that the public at large and even press industry experts were confused about the current state of play.

10.  We wanted to gain an understanding of some of the intricacies of the current system and to set out the facts of press regulation in the UK for the information of the House and the wider public. Some of the key questions that we considered were:

·  What has happened since the Leveson Report was published?

·  What is the current system of press regulation?

·  Is the new system compliant with the recommendations of the Leveson Report?

·  What is the current process for a member of the public wishing to make a complaint against a publisher? Is this widely known and understood?

11.  We have not made recommendations about the future of press regulation in the UK. We have neither sought nor received sufficient evidence to do this. Moreover, we do not consider this the right time to make such recommendations: the current arrangements are new and have not yet had time to demonstrate whether they are robust and effective. This will require effort on the part of the press, the regulators, the Press Recognition Panel, the Government and the political parties. We may therefore wish to return to the issue when the time is right for a full review.

Structure of the report

12.  Chapter 2 sets out the main events of the last 70 years relating to press regulation in the UK. We have also included a timeline of these events for ease of reference in Appendix 4. Chapter 3 explains the details of the current system, examines the relevant bodies in some detail and analyses the evidence that we have received about them and their relationship to each other. In Chapter 4 we examine a number of issues surrounding the current system of press regulation which are the subject of disagreement or confusion. In Chapter 5 we set out the questions that we have not been able to answer but which need to be addressed by those who have the knowledge or the responsibility to do so.

13.  We look forward to the Government's response to the questions we pose in Chapter 5 and also invite any of the other key stakeholders in this debate to respond. We will publish these responses on our website.


14.  We would like to thank everyone who submitted evidence to us, both at oral evidence sessions, held in January 2015, and in writing. We are also grateful to Professor Stewart Purvis and Doctor Damian Tambini, who took part in a detailed briefing towards the start of the inquiry to enable the Committee to understand the current situation.

3   'David Cameron promises phone hacking inquiry', BBC (6 July 2011): (accessed 3 March 2015] Back

4   The Leveson Inquiry, An Inquiry Into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press: Executive Summary (2012) p 4: [accessed 6 February 2015] Back

5   See Chapter 4, paragraphs 121-146 Back

6   The Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBof) was the funding organisation for the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) before it was disbanded. It did this by raising a levy on the newspaper and periodical industries, with the aim of securing financial support for the PCC, while maintaining the PCC's independence. PressBof was made up of six members (in addition to the Chair of the PCC) all of whom were industry representatives.  Back

7    Q26 Back

8   'Victims of press intrusion brand new regulator Ipso a sham', The Guardian (7 September 2014): (accessed 10 February 2015] Back

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