If IPSO is committed to transparency, independence, and justice, then why does it control who can act as an arbitrator?
- IPSO has two arbitration schemes: one is described as voluntary and the other, compulsory. These descriptions are misleading, for members are not compelled to join either scheme. Clause 5.4 of the Membership Agreement states that ‘No PGRE (Publisher Group Regulated Entity) shall be obliged to participate in the Arbitration Service.’
- Moreover, both schemes are subject immediate termination if IPSO ‘believes …that the Scheme is incapable of fulfilling the objective stated in clause 5.1 or that the Scheme otherwise hinders the fair application of justice’ (emphasis added)(clause 1.3 (voluntary) and clause 3.3 (compulsory)). Clause 5.1 confirms the scheme’s principal objective, which is to ‘provide a quick, cost-effective, fair and impartial procedure for resolving [claims] made against the press’.
- Despite the obvious costs implications of arbitration compared to judicial proceedings (which are substantially costlier), IPSO’s arbitration has proved unpopular – only three have been initiated, according to IPSO’s 2019 Report. Worse, it seems that only one of these claims has been pursued: no details are provided in the Report, but one is described as ‘struck out’, one as ‘ongoing’ and, most mysteriously of all, one as ‘Preliminary ruling claimant did not pursue.’
One explanation for its unpopularity may reside in the small print of the Arbitration Scheme Rules. Whereas clause 11 ostensibly states that the choice of the arbitrator is a matter for the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (the company appointed by IPSO to run arbitrations), the glossary of terms section stipulates that CEDR can only select arbitrators from a pre-existing list that has been ‘pre-approved by IPSO’. Further, ‘any amendments made to the [list] during the Scheme must be approved by IPSO’.