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


169.  In the executive summary to his report Lord Justice Leveson stated, "This is the seventh time in less than 70 years that the issues [of press regulation], which have occupied my life since I was appointed in July 2011, have been addressed. No-one can think it makes any sense to contemplate an eighth."[212] It is more than two years since the Leveson Report was published.

170.  Chapters 1-4 of our report show that the system for the regulation of the press is now even more complex than it was before Lord Justice Leveson began his inquiry. Although it may be that the system is necessarily complex, this does give us cause for concern, both over its effectiveness and over the public's understanding of how they can take forward any complaint.

171.  We explained at the start of this report why we have not made recommendations. However, our analysis raises a number of questions relating to the current system of press regulation which we would like to see addressed by the Government and the press itself.

Questions to the Press Recognition Panel

172.  In Chapter 3 we discussed the Press Recognition Panel, its current structure and funding, and the timescales to which it is working. We noted that the Panel has been allocated £900,000 for its work from the public purse, but has not yet received any applications for recognition. If it does not receive any applications, the requirements in the Royal Charter mean that it would have to remain open, even if only in a "holding pattern".[213] We pose the following questions to the Press Recognition Panel:

·  If there are no applications, and the Press Recognition Panel assumes a 'holding pattern', for how long would it be allowed to remain in this configuration? Would it continue to receive Government funding, and at what level?

·  Who could make the decision to dissolve the Press Recognition Panel?

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

173.  IPSO has 96 publishers signed up as members. This includes most national daily newspapers and over 99 per cent of the regional press.[214] It has no plans to seek recognition from the Press Recognition Panel. In any case, it is not compliant with the recommendations made in the Leveson Report or the criteria in the Royal Charter which would be used by the Panel to judge whether or not to grant recognition to a regulator. IPSO appears to have the confidence of the press but lacks the confidence of, amongst others, those who represent the victims of press intrusion. We pose the following questions to IPSO and the RFC:

·  Can IPSO, whilst maintaining the confidence of the press, make the necessary changes to gain the confidence of its current critics? Can it balance freedom of expression on the one hand with the individual's right to privacy on the other?

·  Is the current balance of responsibility and power between IPSO and the RFC appropriate?

·  Would it be more appropriate for IPSO, as an independent regulator, to have sole control over its regulations?

·  Is it appropriate that the RFC owns the copyright to, and exercises editorial control over the Editors' Code of Practice? Should the RFC limit use of the Code to those to whom it grants a licence or should this code be made freely-available to all regulators who wish to use it?

·  What consultation processes are in place regarding any changes to the Code, and are they sufficient?

·  The Editors' Code states that corrections must receive "due prominence"[215] (see Chapter 3, paragraph 96). What does this concept mean in practice, and how is it enforced by IPSO?

·  Will IPSO establish an arbitration service for the early resolution of disputes and if so, when will it be established?

·  Does IPSO intend to assess how well the public understand the current system and know to whom they should address their concerns? Who is responsible for ensuring that the system is understood?

Question to The Independent Monitor of the Press (IMPRESS)

174.  We ask IMPRESS:

·  Will IMPRESS, in the event of gaining a member who is a relevant publisher, seek recognition from the Press Recognition Panel? If so is it confident that it would thereby achieve the difficult balancing act between the press's freedom of expression on the one hand and the individual's right to privacy on the other?

Questions to the Government

175.  We consider that the following questions should be addressed by the Government:

·  When does the Government plan to evaluate the new measures taken by the press and others to assess whether its aims have been met and the system is better for complainants, the public, journalists and the press industry as a whole?

·  Under what circumstances would the Government take further action? Or will the current situation, whereby the majority of the press refuse to submit to the Royal Charter, be allowed to pertain indefinitely?


176.  In 2011, the issue of Press Regulation was a major news story in itself. For now the issue has become less prominent. However, unless the UK has a system of press regulation which adequately balances the right to privacy with freedom of expression, and which has the confidence of potential claimants and the press itself, it is likely that this issue will come back again to haunt the public and the press.

212   The Leveson Inquiry, Executive Summary, op. cit., paragraph 146 Back

213    Q8 Back

214    Q53 (Paul Vickers) Back

215   Independent Press Standards Organisation, Editors' Code of Practice: [accessed 4 March 2015] Back

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