By Brian Cathcart
ITN and the Channel 4 News reporter Fatima Manji have joined many others in complaining to IPSO about Kelvin MacKenzie’s crass remarks about Ms Manji wearing a hijab during reports of the Nice outrage.
Sadly, they are wasting their time.
Since the return of Rebekah Brooks to the helm of Murdoch’s papers and the appointment of Tony Gallagher as editor of the Sun, such outrages have become commonplace, and IPSO is not going to get in the way.
It is the proprietors’ pet regulator and as such is virtually powerless – certainly incapable of significantly influencing the behaviour of MacKenzie or the Sun.
Its impotence was laid bare in May when it applied what in practice is its toughest sanction against the Sun (over the ‘Queen backs Brexit’ story) and the paper’s editor told the BBC: ’I don’t think, were I doing this again tomorrow, I would act in any way differently whatsoever.’
The best outcome that ITN and Ms Manji can hope for if they win their case at IPSO (and we will have to wait at least several weeks to know) is that the Sun might be required to publish, on an inside page, a wordy adjudication explaining why MacKenzie’s words breached the editors’ code.
And history shows that Brooks, Gallagher and their staff will contrive to bury or obscure it so that it its noticed by as few Sun readers as possible. At the same time, their editorial stance on the substance of the complaint will be defiant rather than apologetic.
History also shows that IPSO will not pursue the matter any further.
Where, you might ask, are the regulator’s teeth? Is this not the body that was promoted by its architects as ‘the toughest regulator in the developed world’? Doesn’t it have the power to fine the Sun £1 million?
The powers and toughness of IPSO are a mirage and its creators – the people who run the big papers that so routinely breach their own code of practice – always meant it to be so.
No paper can be fined unless there is a formal investigation, and formal investigations are, by design, very difficult for IPSO to initiate and all but impossible to complete. It would take a miracle before a paper as powerful as the Sun suffered an IPSO fine, and Murdoch, Brooks and Gallagher know it.
Whatever they choose to publish – unless it be a libel of someone rich enough to sue them – they cannot be held accountable.