After receiving multiple letters from press industry lobbyists over the last two weeks making veiled legal threats and mostly unsubstantiated allegations of impropriety, the Press Recognition Panel board today announced that it would defer its decision on whether to grant the press regulator IMPRESS recognition until after a further 20 working day consultation.
Commenting, Hacked Off Joint Executive Director Dr Evan Harris said:
“If this postponement was necessary it is only a consequence of the PRP seeking to be transparent and consultative, which is something never seen in the press industry’s regulatory arrangements, such as the body which controls IPSO, or indeed IPSO itself.
“The press industry is simply trying to intimidate the Press Recognition Panel, just as it has attacked IMPRESS and bullied the victims of press abuse.
“A more honest way than procedural bullying and attempted sabotage for the press industry to try and resist the Leveson Recommendations and the Royal Charter is to democratically and transparently seek to persuade Parliament to reverse its decisions on the subject, but they know that most of the public and Parliament support Leveson and the Royal Charter.”
- A total of 12 letters have been sent by press executives, press-funded lobbyists and editors to the PRP since 11th August. These simply repeated many of the same points that publishers had made during the preceding seven months, in their responses to the two public consultations on IMPRESS’ application and before that to the earlier PRP consultation on interpretation of the Charter provisions.
- One matter focused on by press lobbyists was a section added to the PRP’s website on this page under the subheading “Our interpretation of some terms and elements in the Royal Charter”. The industry lobbyists objected to this on a number of grounds. The PRP have made clear that this section was added to set out the board’s position in relation to the interpretation of several criteria, before the Board had begun its formal consideration of IMPRESS’ application. But the PRP took the point that consultation responses may have been different in the context of this published guidance.
- The PRP have today announced that they will allow a further 20 working day consultation on IMPRESS’ application to allow submissions of additional information on matters raised by the further guidance material published by the board, as described above. None of the other points made by the press industry lobby were the basis for the delay. The full PRP statement is here.
- Background is below.
Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press. The Campaign works with victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.
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- The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) – the independent panel set up under the Royal Charter following the Leveson Report – decides whether press regulators meet standards of independence and effectiveness.
- Support for the Royal Charter system – which includes the National Union of Journalists, victims of press abuse, Article 19 (free speech), Hacked Off, 200+ free speech figures, the public, and every party in Parliament, and more – eclipses the limited but vocal opposition to Leveson and the Royal Charter of the big newspaper corporations and their mouth-piece, the News Media Association, all of which continue to reject the system of independently audited press self-regulation
- The Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press was agreed by all parties in Parliament in 2013, following the 15-month Leveson Inquiry into the Culture Practices and Ethics of the Press
- Sir Brian Leveson had reached the clear and unequivocal conclusion that in order to meet public concern about the independence and effectiveness of self-regulators following the failure of the PCC and the Press Council before that, any new regulator must be “recognised” by a body independent of the press and of politicians – the PRP.
- The Independent Monitor of the Press, ‘IMPRESS’, is seeking recognition
- By contrast, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, IPSO, is refusing to submit itself for recognition. Instead it and its member newspapers are waging a propaganda war to persuade people that the industry can reject the recognition system
- IPSO and the newspapers that control it claim that IPSO is ‘making progress’ so should be left alone to do its job and that Parliament has ‘left it to the press to decide what to do’
- In fact, Leveson criticised the practice of the PCC establishing reviews of its own performance which turned out to be a sham and his proposed new system of press regulation was designed to give the press time to set up or reform their own regulators, which for the first time would need to be “recognised” – by an independent body every few years