Press complaints – plenty to choose from

12 September 2014 – This week saw the launch of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and a rooftop reception in old Fleet Street for its ‘Leveson compliant’ alternative the Independent Monitor for the Press (IMPRESS) which between them will replace the disgraced Press Complaints Commission.

The former is the response of the news groups most criticised by the Leveson Inquiry – Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, Richard Desmond’s Express newspapers and Northern & Shell, DMG Media owners of the Daily Mail, and Trinity Mirror. Anyone with complaints about their titles, or most other magazine and local newspapers, are expected to approach the editor first and then go to IPSO if they are not satisfied. IPSO has yet to publish the names of all the publications it will police, but it remains funded under similar arrangements to the PCC and has inherited its staff.

It is unclear which print and online publications have signed up to IMPRESS, set up using crowd-funding by former director of English PEN Jonathan Heawood and Sir Harold Evans among other luminaries. Its aim is to comply with the requirements laid down by an as yet undetermined Recognition Panel established under the Royal Charter devised after Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem discussions with campaigning group Hacked Off. This will provide its members with protection against punitive damages in any legal actions. Members of IMPRESS must also have their own transparent in-house complaints system but an arbitration service will be available to resolve disputes.

Both will adjudicate against the original Editors’ Code of Practice devised under the now defunct Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBoF) Editors’ Code Committee latterly chaired by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.

Meanwhile, reluctant to get into bed with a ’PCC Mark II’ until it has proved itself a worthy regulator, and unsure whether IMPRESS has legs, the Guardian, Observer, Independent, i, Evening Standard, and Financial Times, will continue to deal with complaints under their own in-house Readers’ Editors.

Having set out to clear up the mess created by phone hacking and other unlawful or unethical activities, the Leveson Inquiry has left readers with a more disparate and confusing system of regulation than ever before.

MediaWise was able to supply a great deal of material to the Leveson Inquiry, based on twenty years experience of assisting complainants, challenging media malpractice and making submissions to parliamentary select committees. The hearings brought few surprises to us, other than the mystery as to why we were not called to give evidence under cross examination.

MediaWise will endeavor to come to grips with the new systems and continue to provide support and advice to those who need it.

On taking charge of IPSO, its Chair, former judge Sir Alan Moses, sought to establish his independence of the press barons by criticising them for being thin-skinned, and demanding a bigger budget than they had allowed the PCC. Back in 2009 MediaWise warned an incredulous internal PCC review team that the industry would be unlikely to increase its budget to undertake the sort of investigations that might have put a stop to phone hacking. It will be intriguing to see whether Sir Alan has more luck than his PCC predecessor, the hapless Lady Buscombe.

We too lack sufficient funding to fulfill our primary purpose and these days operate on a largely voluntary basis. Perhaps IPSO, IMPRESS and those papers sporting Readers’ Editors would like to make a contribution towards our costs, or at least flag up our independent services to potential complainants…

Mike Jempson
Hon Director, MediaWise

IPSO: 0300 123 2220 / / @IPSONews
IMPRESS: @impressproject
Financial Times Readers’ Editor:
Guardian Readers’ Editor: / 020 3353 4736 / @GdnReadersEd
Independent, i & Evening Standard Readers’ Editor: / 020 3615 2409 / @willjgore

Declaration of interest: Aidan White, Honorary President of MediaWise, is now Chair of the IMPRESS Appointments Panel. He is the former General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists and Director of the Ethical Journalism network, and has had neither sight nor part in the writing of this Bulletin.

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