At the end of October, the Press Recognition Panel closed its call for views ahead of its annual State of Recognition Report. The purpose of the Panel, established by the cross-party Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press, is to audit the independence and effectiveness of bodies set up to regulate the press. The annual State of Recognition Report fulfils a secondary role of the Panel: to report on whether the system is working or not.
Leveson was very clear that the system could only be said to be working if an independent, audited regulator exists, and that all significant publishers (i.e. the national titles) are members.
We are halfway there: IMPRESS, an independent regulator, exists and regulates effectively. It protects freedom of speech, but it also protects the public from abuse. Dozens of ethical and local independent publishers have signed up to it.
Yet no major national titles have signed up. The consequences of this have been felt by ordinary people affected by press abuse.
Over the last five years, during which the public should have enjoyed the protection of an independent regulator, hundreds of ordinary people have been subjected to press intrusions and abuse. They should have had a regulator to turn to. Because of the actions of cowardly politicians and self-serving newspaper executives, they did not.
In previous years, the Press Recognition Panel has, rightly, found that the system is not working on account of the failure of national titles to sign up. Its recommendation has been to introduce the Leveson incentive and access to justice measure which Parliament voted for in 2013, but which the Government blocked from coming into effect.
This year we urge the PRP to call time on newspapers’ refusal to accept independent accountability, and call on Parliament to go further in ensuring all newspapers are members of an independent regulator. It is the only way to protect the public from press abuse and gives us all the press we deserve.