Belfast Telegraph

Press expects a mauling as new regulator bares its teeth

By Paul Connolly

Next week sees the launch of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) – and also what is likely to be yet another stage in the battle for Press freedom in the UK.

On Monday, September 8, the successor to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) will come into being and begin to regulate newspapers and magazines, including most nationals, the three Belfast dailies and at least one of the Belfast Sundays (Sunday Life).

The Guardian and Financial Times will not, it appears, be part of Ipso and the Independent/ Evening Standard group might, or might not, I'm not quite sure yet.

There had been suggestions that Ipso might not go public until October, but it has been confirmed that the date is now Monday.

So, after the weekend, if you have a complaint about a newspaper, say, for example, the Belfast Telegraph, you should refer it to the paper first. If you do not feel you have received satisfaction, then you should refer your complaint to Ipso, which can formally take it up for you, if they feel it has merit.

It's a kind of appeal court for newspapers and magazines, a body that will rule on whether editors have followed the rules and whether they have proper procedures in place to ensure ethical standards are complied with. A complaint accepted for investigation by Ipso will move forward on three main points – was the complaint justified under the Editors' Code of Practice, how did the newspaper/magazine handle the complaint and then, if the first and/or second parts are upheld, what sanction should be levied against the offending publication.

Sounds soft perhaps? A little wooly? It's not, it shouldn't be and I hope that Ipso will soon prove that it has sharp teeth and a steely determination.

Where misconduct occurs, and particularly where it goes uncorrected by publications, I genuinely hope Ipso comes down upon them like the proverbial ton of bricks.

For too long, until the hacking/Leveson controversy, it was far too difficult to make a complaint, or to have a correction published, particularly in national newspapers.

Hard-faced deputy editors, or news editors, would be regularly obstructive to complainants. The PCC did improve its service in recent years, but generally only after reaction to scandals and pressure.

Ipso is backed by a series of interwoven five-year legal contracts that permit a series of graded penalties culminating in a £1m fine for sustained and significant breaches of the Editors' Code of Practice and Ipso rules.

It can, and it must, enforce those contracts, and an investigation by its Standards arm should be a bruising experience akin to being forensically mauled by the taxman.

To contact Ipso from Monday: go to www.ipso.co.uk, or email complaints@ipso.co.uk, or inquiries@ipso.co.uk. The telephone number is 0300 123 2220 and there is an out-of-hours emergency number: 07659 152 656. Or write to Independent Press Standards Organisation, c/o Halton House, 20-23 Holborn, London EC1N 2JD.

It's all low-key at the moment, but stand by for fireworks. The Hacked Off lobby group, supported by the actor Hugh Grant and others, has pledged to step up its campaign for reform. And a rival regulator, Impress, is being launched, with backing from the likes of the author JK Rowling.

OOPS. Some apologies are due after a bit of an accidental land-grab this week. In a graphic about the United Kingdom and what it might look like post-Scottish independence, part of Donegal was coloured red, white and blue.

Malin Head looked as if it had declared UDI, withdrawn from the Republic when no one was watching and then rejoined the United Kingdom.

Obviously, this isn't the case. Not unless I've missed a very big political development during the past month.

Well, I was on holiday recently, you know ...

BTreaderseditor@gmail.com

@BelTelReaderEd

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