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


53.  In Chapter 2 we summarised the history of press regulation up until the publication of the Leveson Report. In this Chapter we analyse the changes following the Leveson Report and the present arrangements for the self-regulation of the press. We consider the adoption of the Royal Charter and the regulatory bodies and mechanisms that have been set up subsequently.

54.  We received evidence about a number of issues which have been the subject of debate or disagreement between the regulatory bodies and other interested parties. Although we examine these, for reasons explained in Chapter 1, we do not make recommendations as to how these might be resolved.

Reaction to and implementation of the Leveson Report recommendations


55.  The PCC was closed on 8 September 2014 in response to the findings of the Leveson Report.


56.  The House of Commons debated the Leveson Report on 3 December 2012. It concluded that, "The Government will ensure that the central principles of Lord Justice Leveson's report will be taken forward in cross-party talks as quickly and comprehensively as possible."[42]

57.  The House of Lords considered the Leveson Report on 11 January 2013 in a debate lasting over seven hours. Summing up for the opposition, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said:

    "let me end with a wish that was also expressed by many noble Lords: that the spirit of consensus which has been so evident across the parties on this issue continues and that we can, working together, solve this problem, but quickly".[43]

On behalf of the Government, the Minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach said:

    "there is much common ground, which is why I am encouraged from this debate that a solution based on consensus is possible … I suspect that this is not going to be a Moses-like event, with tablets of stone coming down. I think that we will work our way towards the truth."[44]

A Liberal Democrat Member (Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury) said:

    "The Liberal Democrats welcome the cross-party talks that are taking place … We, along with Labour and the Conservatives, are considering all the different proposals. However, it is essential to get the outcome that Lord Justice Leveson has recommended. The worst thing that could happen is for nothing to happen at all."[45]


58.  There was disagreement between the three main parties as to the way forward following the Leveson Report. The Prime Minister, The Rt Hon David Cameron MP, said he had "serious concerns and misgivings"[46] regarding statutory regulation of the press. The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties did not share this view. In December 2012, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office Minister, proposed that a Royal Charter be used to establish formally the new independent press watchdog.[47]

59.  A Royal Charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organisations such as cities or universities. Royal Charters are approved by the Privy Council, a formal body of advisers to the sovereign, which is mostly made up of current or former Members of Parliament.

60.  Between December 2012 and February 2013, there were "extensive private negotiations between Conservative ministers and the press"[48] leading to the publication of a draft cross-party Royal Charter on 12 February 2013. It was reported that:

    "The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and pressure group Hacked Off agreed to introduce a Royal Charter that would create a 'recognition panel', which would in turn verify the work of a replacement for the Press Complaints Commission. It was a deal struck in the office of Ed Miliband in the early hours of 18 March, with Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin representing the Conservatives."[49]

61.  The Royal Charter on press regulation does not go into detail about the work of the regulator. Instead it sets out the work and structure of the Press Recognition Panel (see Box 4). We were told that the Press Recognition Panel does not regulate the press or have any role in relation to the content of newspapers and news websites. Rather, we heard that its duty is to assess whether a regulator that is established and put forward for recognition meets specified standards of effectiveness and independence.[50] Those standards are set out in Schedule 3 of the Royal Charter and they closely follow the terms of the Leveson recommendations.[51]

62.  The use of a Royal Charter was an attempt by the major parties to achieve a compromise between those who favoured statutory regulation of the press and those who had serious misgivings about it. While an Act of Parliament can be amended with a simple parliamentary majority, it was possible to insert a clause in the Royal Charter requiring any changes to be approved by a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament. This was backed up by a provision in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which provided that the Royal Charter could not be altered unless the changes are in accordance with the terms of the Royal Charter—in other words that there had been agreement by both Houses. This aims to provide a double safeguard to the Royal Charter, although it should be noted that there is nothing to prevent the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 itself being repealed by a simple majority of each House.

63.  On 25 April 2013 PressBof, in consultation with the industry, published its own Charter, based on the terms of the version agreed between the press and Conservative Ministers in February 2013. This was submitted to the Privy Council on 30 April 2013.

64.  PressBof's Charter was rejected by the Privy Council as being inconsistent with the recommendations in the Leveson Report.[52] On 11 October 2013, the leaders of the three main parties agreed and published a draft Royal Charter on the independent self-regulation of the press. The Royal Charter was granted by the Privy Council on 30 October 2013, after the failure of a last minute injunction by PressBof.

65.  When asked about the Royal Charter, Lord Justice Leveson said, "You are absolutely right to say that the concept of a Royal Charter is not mentioned in my report. I did not think of it and, what is more, nobody suggested it. I received submissions from hundreds of people, from dozens of bodies, and it was not a concept that came to me then or at any stage during the course of my deliberations".[53] The recommendation from the Leveson Report was that the regulatory body should be overseen by Ofcom (which regulates broadcasters) or a statutory independent recognition commissioner.

66.  Hacked Off stated that it was in favour of the Royal Charter. Hugh Tomlinson QC, media law expert and Chair of the Hacked Off board, said," Although we would have preferred it to be done by statute, because Leveson made it clear that that is what he preferred, in the end we supported the royal charter route".[54]

67.  The Royal Charter is supported by two sets of statutory provisions, sections 34 to 42 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (see paragraphs 121-146) and section 96 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (see paragraph 62).

Press Recognition Panel

68.  The Royal Charter provides for the establishment of a Panel with the responsibility of overseeing any organisation set up to regulate the print media. Its terms of incorporation and functions are set out in Box 4 below.

Box 4: Royal Charter provisions for the Press Recognition Panel

1.1. There shall be a body corporate known as the Recognition Panel.

1.2. There shall be a Board of the Recognition Panel which shall be responsible for the conduct and management of the Recognition Panel's business and affairs, in accordance with the further terms of this Charter.

1.3. The Members of the Board of the Recognition Panel shall be the only Members of the body corporate, but membership of the body corporate shall not enable any individual to act otherwise than through the Board to which he belongs.

Term of Charter

2.1. Articles 3.2 and 5 and Schedules 1 (Appointments and Terms of Membership) and 4 (Interpretation) shall take effect on the day following the date the Charter is sealed.

2.2. The remainder of this Charter shall take effect from the day after the last date that the Chair and the initial Members of the Board of the Recognition Panel are appointed, and the Panel shall be duly established on that day.


4.1. The Recognition Panel has the functions, in accordance with the terms of this Charter, of:

(a)  determining applications for recognition from Regulators;

(b)   reviewing whether a Regulator which has been granted recognition shall continue to be recognised;

(c)   withdrawing recognition from a Regulator where the Recognition Panel is satisfied that the Regulator ceases to be entitled to recognition; and

(d)  reporting on any success or failure of the recognition system.

Source: Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press[55]

69.  The Press Recognition Panel came into existence as a legal entity under the Royal Charter on 3 November 2014, the day on which its board members were appointed, as provided for by paragraph 2.2 of the Royal Charter (see Box 4).


70.  As required by the Royal Charter, the chair and members of the Press Recognition Panel's board were directly appointed by an independent appointments committee on the basis of criteria outlined in the Royal Charter.[56] The independent appointments committee was appointed by the Commissioner for Public Appointments.[57]

71.   The Royal Charter provides for the Press Recognition Panel to employ staff in addition to those on the board. The Press Recognition Panel informed us by letter that it had appointed an Executive Director on 26 January.[58] It told us that it would embark on recruiting further members of staff after the appointment of an Executive Director.[59] Carolyn Regan, a board member, told us that the Panel was currently employing three "interim"[60] members of staff and that it anticipated that it would only have a small team.[61]


72.  The Royal Charter provides for the Press Recognition Panel to be funded by the Government for its first three years (from 3 November 2014 to 3 November 2017). Thereafter, the Press Recognition Panel is expected to cover its costs by charging fees to regulators. The Press Recognition Panel told us that its ability to raise funds in this way, "obviously depends on the extent to which there are applications".[62] Dr David Wolfe QC, Chairman of the Press Recognition Panel, confirmed that the panel had received £900,000, but that:

    "[the £900,000] has been front-loaded because of a recognition that we would do more work in the early period … I do not envisage we will spend that much, but we are not in a position at the moment to tell you how much we will need."[63]

Dr Wolfe QC said that, it was "very difficult to identify"[64] whether the Panel would be in a position in three years' time to cover its costs through fees. Rather, he observed that the Royal Charter "provides for a mechanism … to enable us to continue the activity in the event that there are no applications".[65] The Royal Charter sets out the mechanism as follows:

    "In the event that the Board considers that its income (from whatever source received) is likely to be insufficient to meet its expenditure relating to (a) legal or other expenses arising from litigation or threatened litigation, (b) ad hoc reviews or(c) wholly unforeseen events, it shall have the right to request further reasonable sums from the Exchequer. In response to such a request, the Exchequer shall grant such sums to the Recognition Panel as the Exchequer considers necessary to ensure that the Purpose of the Recognition Panel is not frustrated by a lack of funding."[66]

This raises issues which are considered in Chapter 5, paragraph 172.

73.  Dr Wolfe QC said that the guaranteed nature of the funds was fundamental to securing the Panel's independence, as it meant it was, "not going to be going begging to anybody who might then be able to influence the way we behave".[67]


74.   Ms Regan and Dr Wolfe QC told us that the Press Recognition Panel was consulting on "organisational"[68] matters and the detail of the regulatory framework set out in the Royal Charter. It was not in a position to recognise a regulator, but told us that "if [a regulator] came to us now and said 'we would like to make an application next week' we would have to get our skates on to try to receive that".[69] Dr Wolfe QC said that to achieve this, they would need to shortcut the "good process" they were undertaking through consultation.[70] Dr Wolfe QC and Ms Regan said that the Panel expected to be ready to accept applications "well ahead of November".[71] Dr Wolfe QC explained that the Panel was still consulting on the process of making an application for recognition, but he anticipated that it would take "weeks and early months rather than any longer"[72] to process an application.

75.  To date, there have been no applications to the Panel for recognition. Dr Wolfe QC explained that if it did not receive any applications, the requirements in the Royal Charter meant that it "could not shut up shop".[73] Instead, it would have to assume a "holding pattern"[74] which would enable it to be in a position to receive applications. He said that if this were to happen, the Panel's costs would drop "dramatically".[75] However, he told us that he was "assuming and hoping that there will be applications".[76]

Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and the Regulatory Funding Company


76.  IPSO was established on 8 September 2014[77] following the disbanding of the PCC (see paragraph 55). It was set up to act as an independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry.[78] It purports to carry this out mainly through ensuring that its members meet the standards outlined in the Editors' Code of Practice (see paragraphs 89-92 below).[79] At the time of publication, 69 publishers had signed up as members of IPSO.[80] Its members include all the national press apart from The Guardian, The Independent and Financial Times, and most of the regional press and large magazine groups.[81] IPSO told us that its members were "signed up on contracts that have effect in law, which was not the case under the Press Complaints Commission".[82]

77.  At the time of publication, IPSO had received nearly 3,906 inquiries. Of these, 2,827 did not lead to a complaint because the complaint fell outside of IPSO's remit, did not breach the Editors' code or the complainant was not eligible to make the complaint. Therefore, the number of complaints received by IPSO stood at 1,079. Of these complaints, 339 were on-going, 528 were not pursued at some point in the process by the complainant, 99 were resolved directly with the publication, and 14 were resolved with direct mediation by IPSO. 39 complaints received a ruling by IPSO's Complaints Committee (see paragraph 78), 8 of which were upheld.[83]

78.  The Chairman of IPSO is Sir Alan Moses, a former Lord Justice of Appeal. Its board is made up of 12 Members including the Chairman, of which five represent the newspaper and magazine industry and seven are independent. IPSO has a Complaints Committee, which is also chaired by Sir Alan, and has 11 other Members. The Complaints Committee has the same proportion of independent and non-independent Members as IPSO's board. In addition, IPSO has an executive, led by Matt Tee. IPSO told us that its board and Complaints Committee were appointed by an appointments panel with a majority of lay members.[84] Mr Tee told us that the majority of IPSO's staff were "inherited" from the PCC's complaints handling team.[85]


79.  IPSO's functions and the procedures it follows are governed by three key documents—its articles of association,[86] regulations,[87] and the scheme membership agreement.[88] IPSO's main functions (as outlined in its governing documents) are set out in Box 5.

Box 5: IPSO's main functions
·  Offering a free-of-charge complaints handling service to the public where there is disagreement between a complainant and a publisher about whether the Editors' Code of Practice has been breached;

·  Carrying out standards investigations in specific instances, such as where there have been "serious and systemic" breaches of the Editors' Code of Practice or a failure to comply with the requirements of the regulator's board;

·  Publishing an annual report on the complaints and investigations it has handled, the effectiveness of publishers' compliance services and on the effectiveness of its arbitration service;

·  Providing guidance to publishers;

·  Providing a confidential whistle-blowing hotline for individuals who have been instructed by publishers to act in a way which would contravene the Editors' Code of Practice; and

·  Providing an arbitration service (subject to the terms of the scheme membership agreements);

Source: Independent Press Standards Organisation C.I.C, Regulations[89]

80.  Publishers that sign up to IPSO must have an in-house complaints handling mechanism to which complaints are directed in the first instance. IPSO's processes only come into effect when this does not result in an outcome satisfactory to the complainant, unless IPSO deems its earlier involvement to be essential. [90]

81.  IPSO has demonstrated its intention to be both complaints handler (ombudsman) and regulator. In February 2015, Peter Oborne, formerly the Telegraph's chief political commentator, made allegations in his resignation letter that the Telegraph had allowed commercial interests to influence editorial decisions. In a subsequent appearance before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Sir Alan said that, "the regulator was seeking to get information from Mr Oborne, the Telegraph and others with the aim of creating a 'meaningful rule within a code' on editorial independence."[91] He said, "while IPSO had not received any official complaints in the wake of Mr Oborne's resignation, the potential blurring of lines between advertising and editorial content was an issue the regulator should look at."[92] The outcome of this case, which at the time of publication remains unresolved, will be particularly significant in assessing IPSO's effectiveness as a regulator.


82.  On receiving a complaint IPSO first assesses whether it falls within its remit (as set out in its regulations)[93] and whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors' Code. It will only take forward a complaint which meets these two requirements. IPSO will take forward complaints from any individual or organisation where an inaccuracy has been published on a general point of fact. Where the complaint relates to an issue other than this, IPSO can take forward a complaint from anyone directly affected by the article or journalistic conduct, and from representative groups in some instances.[94]

83.  The complaint is then passed to IPSO's Complaints Team, which investigates complaints by writing to the editor of the publication to request its response to the complaint, and seeks to mediate a satisfactory outcome to the complaint, if appropriate. If the complaint is not resolved, IPSO's Complaints Committee will decide whether there has been a breach of the Editors' Code. Remedies for a successful complaint include requiring the publication of the Complaints Committee's adjudication, or requiring a correction to be issued. If a complainant is unhappy with process by which the Complaint's Committee's decision was made, it is open to them to appeal to the Complaints Reviewer.[95] Whether or not to refer the complaint to the Complaints Reviewer is at IPSO's discretion.

84.  In the more serious and persistent cases where a standards investigation is necessary, IPSO's regulations provide for it to appoint an Investigation Panel. The Panel produces a confidential report which the publisher can comment on before the Investigation Panel reaches its decision. A publisher can apply for this decision to be reviewed before the decision is published. IPSO's board may impose sanctions following a decision by the Investigation Panel. The more severe sanctions are: the requirement to pay a fine (up to 1 per cent of the publisher's UK turnover or £1,000,000 per investigation);[96] the requirement to pay "reasonable costs" of the standards investigation; and termination of the publisher's membership of the regulator. A publisher can appeal to the Review Panel against the way in which a decision was made by the Investigation Panel. Whether or not to refer the appeal to the Review Panel is at IPSO's discretion.

Figure 1: Flowchart of IPSO's complaints procedure

Source: IPSO, written evidence[97]


85.  IPSO is funded through the RFC. At the time we took evidence, its Chairman was Paul Vickers, former secretary and group legal director of Trinity Mirror and former director of PressBof. Mr Vickers resigned from his post as Chairman on 4 March 2015.[98] It has nine board members, including the Chairman, all of whom are representatives from the print media industry.

86.  The RFC is a limited company. According to its website, it was set up to finance IPSO by raising a levy on the news media and magazine industries. Mr Vickers set out the relationship between the RFC and IPSO:

    "RFC is put between IPSO and its individual members, but made up of those members, to collect the money from the members. So if someone was in default of payment, it would not be IPSO that pursued them but the RFC. We raise the money from the members of IPSO and pay it over."[99]

87.  The RFC told us that its budget is £2.5 million per annum. Its Chairman told us that most of this, around £2.4 million, will be paid to IPSO[100] and that the other £100,000 will cover the RFC's administration costs. Sir Alan told us that this was IPSO's total budget for 2015, in addition to around £0.5 million for "transition costs"—the cost of setting up a new organisation. Sir Alan highlighted that it was around £0.5 million more than had been the annual funding of the PCC.[101] We were told that later in 2015, IPSO and the RFC would negotiate and agree a multi-year budget for the following three or four years, in order to "remove the question of money from the discussions … with the industry".[102]

88.  The RFC's funding from 8 September 2015 onwards will be derived from subscriptions paid by IPSO's 96 Members. Mr Vickers told us that the subscriptions were calculated on a "revenue share basis … whereby companies can submit their unpublished revenue figures in confidence, add up the total and divide it appropriately."[103] He said that this system was not currently being used but did not give any indication as to how the RFC's current budget was calculated, and where its revenue came from.


89.  The Editors' Code of Practice[104] is used by IPSO as the basis for its regulation of the industry. It is based largely on the Code of Practice which was enforced by the now defunct PCC.

90.  Mr Tee told us that the Editors' Code of Practice was a product of the Editors' Code of Practice Committee, a sub-committee of the RFC. He said that IPSO did not have ownership or authority over the Code. Mr Vickers confirmed that the RFC owned the Editors' Code. We consider this further in paragraphs 164-168.

91.  The Editors' Code Committee is chaired by Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. It is made up of 11 other Members, who are all print media editors save the Chairman and Chief Executive of IPSO.[105] IPSO told us that it was in the process of appointing three additional independent members to the Committee.[106]

92.  IPSO made clear to us that it did not intend to seek recognition under the Royal Charter. Sir Alan was therefore unable to confirm whether IPSO complied with it.[107] He told us that IPSO's decision not to seek recognition was based on its members' "theological objection to the charter"[108]. Sir Alan said that this objection meant, "… there is no point, independently from our members, seeking the recognition that they have set their face against."[109] However, Sir Alan told us that he hoped that an assessment of IPSO's work over time would show that it was independent.


93.  IPSO told us that it was still in the process of negotiating some aspects of its relationship with the RFC. Sir Alan said that he had made some proposals to the RFC to alter the contractual "rules and regulations" in its governing documents, which he said were "opaque, sometimes self-contradictory, difficult to understand and sometimes difficult to find."[110] He suggested that as they stand, "eight or nine" of the rules could provide an opportunity to "obfuscate and resist an investigation"[111] and he accepted the Media Standards Trust's suggestion that there was very little chance of a fine being imposed under the current investigations process.[112] We do not yet know whether the RFC will accept Sir Alan's proposed changes.

94.  Mr Vickers said the contractual nature of the relationship meant that, "when Sir Alan says that he is going to put a red line through a whole load of things, he cannot do that".[113] However, he said that the RFC was "open"[114] to the idea of discussing changes to the proposals if things were not working.

95.  Sir Alan wrote to us to clarify that he had not, so far, proposed changes to the Editors' Code. IPSO told us that the Code was "generally felt to be fit for the purpose that we use it for".[115] Sir Alan conceded that not having complete control over the Code was an area of weakness. Nevertheless, Mr Tee observed that IPSO had a "veto" over amendments to the Code, which Sir Alan said would prevent "any weakening of [the] rules".[116] He also said that it was one of IPSO's ambitions to change and take ownership of the Code.[117] The RFC made clear that changes to the Code could not be made by IPSO unilaterally, but would need be made through the Code Committee.[118]

96.  Witnesses did not raise concerns with the actual content of the Editors' Code, with the exception of Hacked Off, who told us that, "When there are complaints, there are small online corrections", and that neither the PCC nor IPSO accepted the concept of equivalence—that apologies should have the same prominence as the disputed item.[119] The Editors' Code states that, "A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence".[120] However, it is unclear to us what is meant by "due prominence".


97.  Much of the criticism surrounding IPSO and the RFC centred on their lack of compliance with the elements that the Leveson Report recommended were necessary for a regulator to be effective. Dr Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust, told us that the Trust had found that IPSO satisfied only 12 of the 38 recommendations on this subject, in the Leveson Report. It had failed 20, and there were six on which the Media Standards Trust could not make a judgment based on the information available (a chart outlining IPSO's compliance with the Leveson recommendations is at Appendix 5).[121] Dr Moore told us that "the [recommendations] IPSO failed on were really fundamental, with regard to independence, arbitration and complaints".[122] Dr Moore set out 10 changes that IPSO could make that would fundamentally improve its independence and effectiveness, many of which were to do with removing some of the constraints on IPSO set out in its articles of association. It is unclear whether the changes to its governing documents, which Sir Alan told us that he had proposed to the RFC, (see paragraph 93 above) would address the issues that Dr Moore highlighted.

98.  Witnesses raised the issue of IPSO's independence. We received evidence from Christopher Jeffries, a patron of Hacked Off, who wrote to us on behalf of a group of victims of "press abuse".[123] He said that the structure and constitution of IPSO meant that it could not be seen as independent. Mr Jeffries noted that the Code Committee was chaired by the Editor-in-Chief "of the newspaper group which has been found to be the one most often in breach of its terms".[124] He also told us that it was "astonishing" that "the executive at the Mirror Group Newspapers who was responsible for compliance with the law at the time of most of … [its] breaches [of the Editors' Code], and who told the Leveson Inquiry that he had found no evidence of hacking, has been made the chair of the … RFC."[125]

99.  This concern was reinforced by other witnesses, who questioned the role that the industry-led RFC had over IPSO's constitution, rules and procedures.[126] Hugh Tomlinson QC, media law expert and Chair of the Hacked Off board, pointed out that, "[IPSO's] constitution is exactly what Sir Brian Leveson said should not be done; it is under the control of an industry-funding body that has a veto over the way in which it works".[127] We heard the case that IPSO, rather than the RFC, should have control over its own governing documents.[128] We were also told that the Code Committee should be made up of a mix of the public, editors and journalists as opposed to its current constitution where eight out of 12 members are editors.[129]

100.  There were some areas where there was a lack of clarity surrounding IPSO's processes. Dr Moore said that newspapers were obliged to give IPSO an annual report on the complaints, but that:

    "it is very unclear how they record them, in what detail and particularly how they distinguish between a formal and an informal complaint. If one goes to certain sites at the moment as a complainant, you are offered the opportunity to make either a formal or an informal complaint. I do not understand the distinction there, but nowhere does it say whether formal or informal complaints will be reported to the regulator, or whether making a formal complaint means that it is somehow cordoned off and not made known to the regulator. It is opaque."[130]

Professor Chris Frost, Chair of the Ethics Council, National Union of Journalists (NUJ), was similarly unsure about the distinction between informal and formal complaints: "I would assume, but I may have got this wrong, that only if those [informal initial] talks broke down would it become a formal complaint, initially to the newspaper and then on to IPSO."[131]

101.  Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), a group which seeks to enable the Muslim community to engage with the media, was uncertain as to what criteria are used to establish whether a complainant is a "representative group",[132] for the purpose of IPSO's complaints procedure.

102.  Dr Moore said that the process for escalating a complaint needed clarification. He said that IPSO's regulations suggested that after the complaint was escalated, IPSO started the "process of mediation—the exchange of letters et cetera—all over again".[133] He pointed out that the Leveson Report had criticised the PCC for designing its processes in this way.

The Independent Monitor of the Press (IMPRESS)

103.  The IMPRESS project was established in mid-2013 in response to developments after the Leveson Report. Jonathan Heawood, its founding Director, told us that it was set up as the "development organisation"[134] for a new regulator of the press, to be called IMPRESS. Mr Heawood made clear that the aim of the IMPRESS project was to develop a regulator which was compliant with the Royal Charter.

104.  At the time this report was published, IMPRESS was not yet fully set up. Mr Merricks CBE, former Chief Ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, had been appointed as the Chair of IMPRESS, and the six other members of its board were in place. We were told that the board was recruited with the intention of complying with the Royal Charter's requirements. Mr Merricks told us that the IMPRESS board had yet to adopt its constitution and articles of association, and was currently considering a draft.[135] Therefore, it is not yet clear what IMPRESS's procedures and key functions will be, although Mr Heawood did say that under IMPRESS's proposal publishers will be expected to resolve complaints themselves in the first instance. He emphasised that anybody signing up to IMPRESS would have to sign up in full to its terms.[136]

105.  The IMPRESS project is an independent non-profit company, which receives grants and donations from trusts, foundations and individuals.[137] Mr Merricks told us that although it did not have a guaranteed source of funding at present, he hoped the donations would be enough to enable it to establish itself as regulator and "open for business".[138] He anticipated that IMPRESS would eventually fund itself by charging regulatory fees to its member publishers, but conceded that it would need enough members to be financially viable, or it would "have to close."[139]

106.  IMPRESS confirmed that, since it was not yet established, it did not have any publishers signed up to it. Mr Merricks suggested that it might be set up in around three months, and Mr Heawood said that he had spoken to "smaller, local, hyperlocal and … specialist publications"[140] about the possibility of signing up to IMPRESS.


107.  IMPRESS is distinct from IPSO in that compliance with the Royal Charter is one of its central aims. Nevertheless, it has not yet confirmed that it will seek recognition from the Press Recognition Panel. Mr Heawood told us that he did "not see any barriers to IMPRESS seeking recognition"[141] when it was fully set up, but that it would want to consult on concerns surrounding the Royal Charter first. He said:

    "I think it would be perverse of us to go out there saying, 'Here we are signing up to the charter come what may, take it or leave it'. There is much more benefit in … seeking to understand people's objections and concerns ... If, at the end of that, there is some way of achieving the objectives of the charter framework in terms of the principles but without signing up to the charter, that is an option the board might consider."[142]

However, Mr Heawood made clear that the commercial concerns of any IMPRESS members would not influence its decision as to whether to seek recognition.


108.  In addition to its intention to comply with the Royal Charter (and potentially to seek recognition), IMPRESS's model of regulation is also distinct from that of IPSO because it has definite plans to establish an arbitration scheme, with the aim of reducing costs for those involved in libel litigation and breaches to professional standards. Mr Heawood said that IMPRESS was working with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators to draft a suitable scheme.[143]

109.  IPSO does not currently offer an arbitration service. Sir Alan, when asked whether IPSO was working towards setting up a compulsory arbitration system, told us that IPSO had "appointed somebody to research that, and we hope within the next few months to have reached a resolution as to how that might be done."[144]

110.  Another distinction is that it is currently unclear whether IMPRESS will use the same Code of Practice as IPSO (the Editors' Code), given that the Code is owned by the RFC. Mr Merricks told us that in his view, "it would be very sensible for us to use the Editors' Code as the code of practice that most professional journalists who have been trained in the training schools have been used to."[145] However, he told us that IMPRESS had not requested permission to use the Code, and did not confirm whether or not it intended to.

Other models of regulation

111.  As set out in paragraph 76, most of the major national newspapers are signed up to IPSO. The exceptions to this are The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Independent. We heard oral evidence from Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian and received a written submission from the Financial Times. We set out to understand why these publishers had not joined IPSO, and how they were currently being regulated.


112.  The Guardian told us that it was regulated through its own internal system of regulation. Alan Rusbridger, its Editor, said that it had recently "boosted" its internal system, by adding a "separate review panel".[146] He explained that The Guardian's complaints are handled through an office run by an "independent readers' editor"[147] who is employed by The Scott Trust and has a guaranteed column once a week in The Guardian.[148]

113.  Mr Rusbridger said he had no power as editor to alter what the independent readers' editor wrote or to dismiss him, since that power was vested in The Scott Trust. In addition, the newly established review panel[149] meets once a month to look at complaints which it believes have not been resolved satisfactorily by the readers' editor. On its website, The Guardian says that the review panel will only look at complaints which fall within the clauses set out within the "PCC Code"[150]. It is unclear whether the Code, which seems to be identical to the Editors' Code copyrighted by the RFC, has been licenced to The Guardian. Commenting on the overall system, Mr Rusbridger acknowledged that it did not comply with the Royal Charter but said it was "robust and independent".[151]

114.  Mr Rusbridger said that The Guardian had not joined IPSO because it was not "satisfied … that IPSO was entirely independent in the way we would hope."[152] He pointed out that, "The majority of the titles of what used to be called the broadsheet press are not in IPSO at the moment".[153] However, he did not dismiss joining IPSO in future, saying that The Guardian was, "waiting to see the progress that Sir Alan makes … before considering whether we should join IPSO."[154]

115.  With respect to IMPRESS, Mr Rusbridger said that it was "remarkably similar"[155] to IPSO, but that the main difference was that IMPRESS "started with the idea of a Charter".[156] He said that one of the reasons The Guardian did not want to join IMPRESS at this stage was that to do so would be, "tying [itself] to the Royal Charter". He outlined that The Guardian's concerns with the Royal Charter related to its lack of independence from the government of the day, and the specific drafting of the incentives in the Royal Charter itself.


116.  The Financial Times outlined its current regulatory arrangements. It told us that readers' complaints were managed by an independent Editorial Complaints Commissioner, which was governed by an independent Appointments and Oversight Board.[157] It told us that its Complaints Commissioner provided an alternative dispute resolution service "in the rare cases that it might be appropriate".[158]

117.  The Financial Times said that its current regulatory approach, and decision not to join a regulator, was based on "its standing as an increasingly digital news operation with a global footprint".[159] In an article explaining its decision the Financial Times said, "Our main competitors are global news organisations, each of which applies its own system of independent regulation. There is no industry standard."[160]

118.  We received no evidence on the effectiveness of The Guardian or Financial Times's internal systems. It is clear that they would not be deemed compliant under the Royal Charter's recognition system.

119.  It remains to be seen whether, in addition to IPSO and IMPRESS, other regulatory bodies will be set up. Mr Heawood told us that he thought it was unlikely that there would be more than two regulators "for the foreseeable future".[161]

42   HC Deb, 3 December 2012, col 694 Back

43   HL Deb, 11 January 2013, col 458 Back

44   HL Deb, 11 January 2013, cols 462-464 Back

45   HL Deb, 11 January 2013, cols 364-365 Back

46   HC Deb, 29 November 2012, col 449 Back

47   'Great and the good lined up for new press regulator under Royal Charter', Daily Telegraph (13 December 2012): [accessed 2 March 2015] and 'Leveson Report: PM proposes third way to regulate the press', Daily Telegraph (7 December 2012) [accessed 2 March 2015]  Back

48   Hugh Tomlinson QC, op. cit. p 15 Back

49   'Parliament vs press: how rival royal charters are key to media reforms', The Guardian (8 October 2013): [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

50   Hacked Off, 'The Royal Charter on Press Self-Regulation': [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

51   Ibid. Back

52   Hugh Tomlinson QC, op. cit. p 16 Back

53   Oral evidence taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, 10 October 2013 (Session 2013-14),  Q770 (Rt Hon Sir Brian Leveson) Back

54    Q44 Back

55   Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press: uploads/attachment_data/file/254116/Final_Royal_Charter_25_October_2013_clean__Final_.pdf [date accessed 3 March 2015] Back

56   The Chair of the Recognition Panel was appointed first, and worked with the Appointments Committee to appoint the rest of the Recognition Panel.  Back

57   The Public Appointments Commissioner is the guardian of processes used by Ministers to make public appointments on merit. The current Commissioner is Sir David Normington. The Commissioner for Public Appointments, 'The Commissioner for Public Appointments' : [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

58   The letter was sent to a number of stakeholders, including the Committee, but does not constitute evidence to the inquiry  Back

59   Written evidence from the Press Recognition Panel (PRG0008) Back

60    Q5 Back

61   Ibid.  Back

62    Q6 Back

63    Q5 Back

64    Q6 Back

65   Ibid. Back

66   Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press, op. cit. Back

67    Q4 Back

68    QQ4-7 Back

69    Q7 Back

70   Ibid. Back

71    Q9 Back

72   Ibid. Back

73    Q8 Back

74   Ibid. Back

75   Ibid. Back

76   Ibid. Back

77    Q22 Back

78   Independent Press Standards Organisation, 'Editors' Code of Practice': [accessed 2 March 2015]  Back

79   Ibid. Back

80    Q26 Back

81    Q53 Back

82    Q24 Back

83   Written evidence from the Independent Press Standards Organisation (PRG0016); IPSO told us that, "60 [complaints] were multiple complaints, where more than one complainant raised a complaint but only one ruling is made and will be covered elsewhere in these figures." Back

84    Q25 Back

85   Ibid. Back

86   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Articles of Association: [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

87   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Regulations: REGULATIONS__PDF_.PDF [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

88   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Scheme Membership Agreement, SCHEME_MEMBERSHIP_AGREEMENT__PDF_.PDF [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

89   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Regulations, REGULATIONS__PDF_.PDF [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

90   Usually within a period of 28 days. Back

91   'Peter Oborne, 'Press regulator to investigate Daily Telegraph', The Independent, (24 February 2015) [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

92   Ibid. Back

93   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Regulations, [accessed 2 March 2015]. Broadly framed, IPSO's remit relates to editorial material published by member publications. It also deals with complaints about the physical behaviour of journalists. Back

94   Independent Press Standards Organisation, 'Making a complaint': [accessed 3 March 2015]. IPSO says that it will take forward complaints from representative groups, where the alleged breach of the Code is significant and there is a public interest in doing so. Back

95   IPSO's Regulations state that the Complaints Reviewer should be a member of IPSO's Board, who is not the Chair and that the Complaints Reviewer should not be involved in making the decision to either accept or reject the request for a review of the original Complaints Committee's decision. The current Complaints Reviewer is Richard Hill MBE, Chair of the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland and owner and director of Titanic Gap Media Consultancy. Back

96   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Financial Sanctions Guidance, [accessed 2 March 2015]; Independent Press Standards Organisation, Regulations, [accessed 2 March 2015]. IPSO's regulations state that: "The Regulator's Board will only impose fines or costs where the Regulated Entity's conduct is sufficiently serious. Any fines or costs will be flexible in amount and will be determined in accordance with the Financial Sanctions Guidance. No fine or costs will be imposed unless the Regulated Entity has first been given the opportunity to attend a hearing at which the potential imposition of a fine or requirement to pay costs will be considered." Back

97   Written evidence from the Independent Press Standards Organisation (PRG0016) Back

98   Newsmedia Association, 'Paul Vickers Resigns as RFC Chairman' (5 March 2015): [accessed 6 March 2015] Back

99    Q52 Back

100   Ibid. Back

101    Q23 Back

102   Ibid. Back

103    Q52 Back

104   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Editors' Code of Practice: [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

105   Editors' Code of Practice Committee, 'About us': [accessed 2 March 2015] Back

106    Q30 Back

107    Q26 Back

108   Ibid. Back

109   Ibid. Back

110    Q24 Back

111   Ibid. Back

112   Ibid. Back

113    Q53 Back

114   Ibid. Back

115    Q30 Back

116   Ibid. Back

117    Q30 Back

118    Q54 Back

119    Q44 Back

120   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Editors' Code of Practice: Code__A4_2014.pdf [accessed 4 March 2015] Back

121    Q60 Back

122   Ibid. Back

123   Written evidence from Christopher Jeffries (PRG0009) Back

124   Ibid. Back

125   Ibid; and  Q61 (Dr Martin Moore) Back

126   Written evidence from Hacked Off (PRG0011) Back

127    Q46 and  Q61 (Dr Martin Moore) Back

128   Written evidence from Christopher Jeffries (PRG0009) and Q46 (Dr Evan Harris) Back

129   Written evidence from the NUJ (PRG0002), and  Q62 Back

130    Q65 Back

131   Ibid. Back

132   Written evidence from Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) (PRG0004) Back

133    Q66 Back

134    Q12 Back

135    Q14 Back

136    Q15 Back

137   The Impress Project, 'Funding': [accessed 2 March 2015]. Donors include: the Joseph Rowntree Trust, The Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust and JK Rowling and David Sainsbury  Back

138    Q14 Back

139    Q19 Back

140    Q16 Back

141   Ibid. Back

142   Ibid. Back

143    Q17 Back

144    Q30 Back

145    Q20 Back

146    Q32 Back

147    Q34 Back

148   The Scott Trust is the sole shareholder in Guardian Media Group, owner of The Guardian. The Trust was created in 1936 to safeguard the journalistic freedom and values of the Guardian. In 2008 it became a limited company, with the same protections for the Guardian enshrined in its constitution. Back

149    Q34 and The Guardian: 'The review panel': [accessed 2 March 2015]. The Guardian website says, "The chair of the review panel is John Willis, the existing Guardian News & Media external ombudsman, Bafta deputy chairman and chief executive of Mentorn Media. John is joined on the panel by: Geraldine Proudler, partner at Olswang and board member of the Guardian Foundation, and Elinor Goodman, former political editor of Channel 4 News, and one of six panel members at the Leveson inquiry." Back

150   Ibid. Back

151    Q40 Back

152    Q33 Back

153   Ibid. Back

154    Q32 Back

155    Q33 Back

156   Ibid. Back

157   Written evidence from the Financial Times (PRG0010) Back

158   Ibid.  Back

159   Ibid. Back

160   Ibid.  Back

161    Q18 Back

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