An independent review into the independence and effectiveness of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has been announced. IPSO was established in September 2014, following the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press.
IPSO’s stated objective is to be “an independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry” that “exists to promote and uphold the highest standards of journalism in the UK and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editors’ Code of Practice has been breached.”
IPSO administers and enforces the Editors’ Code of Practice (available here). The Code sets professional standards for print journalism in relation to issues such as accuracy of reporting, intrusion into shock and grief, the way in which the press interacts with children and the need to protect the confidentiality of sources. IPSO has the legal authority, where necessary, to require the publication of corrections and may levy fines against publications for especially serious breaches of the Code.
IPSO has made some notable decisions, including requiring front page corrections and the publication of its full rulings. Nevertheless, some commentators have questioned whether it truly is independent – including the prominent campaign group “Hacked Off”.
IPSO regulates by consent. Newspapers and magazines who wish to be regulated by it enter into a contractual agreement whereby they agree to abide by the Code. Some major UK broadsheets (including the Guardian, the Observer, the Financial Times) have opted to self-regulate rather than be subject to the authority of IPSO.
Sir Joseph Pilling, a former senior civil servant, has been appointed to conduct the review into IPSO. The review will examine “the effectiveness of IPSO’s functions, and the extent to which it operates independently” and will “test the degree to which IPSO has been faithful to its publicly stated principles and values.” The full Terms of Reference are available on the IPSO review website.
The review is seeking evidence from any interested party, including members of the public. Submissions can be made via the IPSO website. Although there is no stated deadline by which submissions should be made, Sir Joseph has indicated that his aim is to complete the review within six months of February 2016.