IPSO: Regulator or Complaints Handler?

23 June 2021
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A new report published this week reveals for the first time how IPSO, the press regulator which covers most of the UK’s largest print and online publishers, was set up largely as a predetermined industry plan rather than as a response to the Leveson Inquiry. The report also reveals how a last-minute wording change, introduced by those publishers behind IPSO’s launch, effectively removed IPSO’s ability to launch a standards investigation or impose sanctions and thereby reduced it to little more than a complaints-handling body.

Published two weeks before the tenth anniversary of the phone hacking revelations that led to the setting up of an independent Inquiry under Lord Justice Leveson, the report details how the newspaper industry has essentially ignored the Inquiry’s conclusions, bypassing Leveson’s recommendations for reform in favour of its own premeditated system. Moreover, the industry has made it almost impossible for IPSO to gather complete information on code breaches, and therefore to monitor compliance with regulatory standards.

The damning report, compiled by Prof. Steven Barnett and Dr Gordon Ramsay concludes that “IPSO’s hands have been tied by the industry, and… does not have the tools to fulfil the task of genuinely independent and effective self-regulation.”

The authors argue that the continuing absence of effective regulation in most of the printed and online press, ten years after shocking lapses in editorial standards were exposed, has implications for journalism and policy-makers. It is detrimental to the public who see injustices go unchallenged, and unfair to the vast majority of working journalists who follow agreed professional codes but see poor practices ignored. Crucially, deficient regulation undermines trust in a vital democratic institution at a time that professional newsgathering and accurate reporting are under huge pressure from social media platforms.”



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