Over the past 70 years the press industry has refused time and time again to adopt independent and effective self-regulation. It has been given a number of chances to make self-regulation work, but has wasted them all, harming thousands of innocent people, provoking crisis after crisis and inquiry after inquiry. Here is the record:
1953 Four years after a Royal Commission told the press to start regulating itself, nothing had been done. Only the threat of legislation forced them to create the General Council of the Press. Withdrawing his private member’s Bill, C.J. Simmons MP told the Commons: ‘I give warning here and now that if it [the Council] fails, some of us again will have to come forward with a measure similar to this bill.‘
1962 A second Royal Commission told the press self-regulation wasn’t working and proposed steps to make it effective: ‘We think that the Press should be given another opportunity itself voluntarily to establish an authoritative General Council . . . We recommend, however, that the government should specify a time limit after which legislation would be introduced.‘
1977 The third Royal Commission on the Press urged radical reform of the Press Council and said that if nothing was done parliament should act. The report said: ‘We recommend that the press should be given one final chance to prove that voluntary self-regulation can be made to work.’
1990 Parliament backed the Calcutt Committee recommendations for radical change to self-regulation, including the establishment of an effective Press Complaints Commission. Papers were given a ‘year of grace’ to make this work and the Home Secretary, David Waddingston, told the Commons: ‘This is positively the last chance for the industry to establish an effective non-statutory system of regulation.’
1993 The Calcutt Review concluded that the PCC was ‘not… an effective regulator of the press’. It recommended a Press Complaints Tribunal backed by statute. A Major government with a slender majority failed to implement this and the PCC continued.
2011 In the Commons in July 2011, speaking after the revelation that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, David Cameron said: ‘I accept we can’t say it’s the last chance saloon all over again. We’ve done that.’
2012 The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press held public hearings throughout 2011 and 2012, with the Inquiry report published in November 2012.
2013 The Queen sets her seal on the Royal Charter on Self-Regulation of the Press. The Charter creates the Recognition Panel, to which any regulator can apply for recognition under the Charter.
2014 The newspaper industry, in defiance of the Royal Charter and against the wishes of the public, launches IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation), a son-of-PCC. IPSO does not meet 20 of the 38 recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson in relation to press self-regulation.
2015 Hacked Off release ‘The Failure of IPSO’ publication one year after the launch of the so-called regulator. You can read the damning dossier of ongoing press abuse under IPSO’s watch here.
2016 IMPRESS is granted recognition by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP). By passing the PRP’s audit, IMPRESS is the first regulator to have proven its independence and effectiveness under the Leveson system of independent assessment.