IPSO claims to be an independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry, and exists to promote and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism in the UK, and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editor's Code of Practice been breached. The Editors' Code deals with issues such as accuracy, invasion of privacy, intrusion into grief or shock and harassment. IPSO is able to consider concerns about editorial content in newspapers and magazines, and about the conduct of journalists.IPSO handles complaints, and conducts its own investigations into editorial standards and compliance. It also undertakes monitoring work, including by requiring publications to submit annual compliance reports. IPSO has the power, where necessary, to require the publication of prominent corrections and critical adjudications, and may ultimately fine publications in cases where failings are particularly serious and systemic.
KEY BASIC POINTS:
- Its the successor to the PCC, which announced its plan to disband itself in March 2012, recognising its response to phone-hacking (the PCC attacked the Guardian for reporting on hacking!!!) left it with limited credibility
- It came about as a direct consequence of The Leveson Inquiry
- Hacked Off, The Media Standards Trust and other campaign groups argue it is not 'Leveson-compliant' - Leveson wanted a Royal Charter, and Labour + Lib Dems agreed, but Tory opposition led to deadlock ...
- ... and the press went ahead and launched a regulator before Parliament had agreed on the form of a new regulator
- The situation remains confused: the government set up the Press Recognition Panel in November 2014 as 'as a fully independent body with the purpose of carrying out activities in relation to the recognition of press regulators' [Wiki] - its powers or role are every bit as vague and unclear as that sounds! Remember that Calcutt (1991) promised a review of compliance after 18 months of the PCC ... and stated self-regulation had failed, but the (Tory) Major government waited 3 years to respond, and simply shelved his proposal!
- It has a rival, IMPRESS, which has also failed to win a Royal Charter (PressBOf, the funding body behind the PCC and IPSO are opposed to this as being political interference), and has signed up zero publishers
- IPSO has, effectively, carried on where the PCC left off - Desmond's Northern and Shell papers (Star, Express), simply quit the PCC, refusing to continue paying the levy ... and nothing was, or could be, done. The FT, Indie and Guardian have refused to join IPSO, with the FT and Guardian running their own complaints system. The Guardian's Reader's Editor (ombudsman) is independent from the paper's editor, and can overrule him/her (Alan Rusbridger retired this week), currently dealing with 30k complaints a year, publishing or noting 2604 corrections online (1022 in print) from those.
- In the May 2015 election campaign, Labour were committed to new proposals for a tougher, Leveson-compliant regulator, but the Tory victors are clearly not going to re-open this issue. Whether this is linked to the majority of the press, including the Indie, backing the Tories, is debatable
- IPSO follows the same Editor's Code of Practice as the PCC did, so you can directly compare rulings from the two
- Like the PCC, it will keep the Editor's Code under review
- The funding remains the same: publishers pay a levy to PressBOf (now renamed the Regulatory Funding Company [RFC]).
- Whilst PressBof remains straightforwardly an industry body (which for some critics ensures IPSO has no credibility as an 'independent' regulator), it is important to note a key change from the PCC: IPSO has an independent (non-industry) chair AND a 'lay majority' (again, non-industry) majority on its committee.
- The chair, Sir Alan Moses, has shown some appetite to take on the press, with his recent ruling on The Sun, so don't condemn IPSO out of hand!!!
It is worth noting just how new IPSO is; therefore there are a limited number of rulings to analyse - you will very much still be making reference to the PCC but MUST include some of the following. I've picked out a very select few.
1: CHAT MAGAZINE, NOV 2014: CLAUSES 1, 3, 5
(accuracy; privacy; intrusion into grief or shock)
This is especially noteworthy as whilst the ruling is on a complaint from an adult, the complaint was about exposure to information that had been avoided as a child and since.
Chat magazine ran an article based on an interview with the complainant's aunt:
The article was the story of the complainant’s mother’s 1995 murder by her husband, as told by the complainant’s aunt. It included details of the murdered woman’s relationship, prior to her death, as well as telling the way in which she had been killed and how the body had been disposed of. The article noted that the reason why the story was being re-published at this stage was because the man convicted of killing the complainant’s mother had recently been released from prison. [IPSO ruling page]IPSO ruled against the complainant, stating that whilst the ruling panel were sympathetic to the trauma suffered, to censor material which had been in the public domain, and to restrict the aunt's right to free speech, would be inappropriate; the notion of protecting a childhood cocoon on behalf of a now mature adult was not sustainable.
Its fairly rare to see such explicit rejection of complaints based on protection of children, albeit the 'child' here was a notional one from many years past.
2: DERBY TELEGRAPH, NOV 2014: CLAUSES 3, 5, 6
(privacy; intrusion into grief or shock; children)
Following an article headlined “Girl involved in incident outside Derbyshire secondary school”, published on the website of the Derby Telegraph on 20 November 2014, a woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the newspaper had breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.This one perhaps indicates a toughening up of the approach to children, and less leeway being given to the press. The examples of the 'look like a slut in that short skirt' and Toploader guitarist's kids photos form a useful contrast - no censure for the former and the latter was in a Richard Desmond Northern and Shell tabloid, which at the time meant they weren't covered by the press regulator (the PCC).
The article reported that a teenager was believed to have been knocked down by a car outside of a school. It was accompanied by a photograph of the scene, which showed the girl lying on the pavement, with her face pixelated. Next to her was another girl in a school uniform and two other passers-by. The two girls shown in the picture were 11-year-old sisters; the complainant was their mother. [IPSO ruling page]
This was no reckless tabloid example though; Roy Greenslade provides some of the backdrop, and the steps the paper took to identify the girls prior to publication were at worst reasonable:
It reported that the girl had been injured after it was believed she had been knocked down by a car outside a school. In an accompanying photograph of the scene, the girl was shown lying on the pavement.Her face was pixelated but the girl tending to her, which turned out to be her sister, could be identified.It transpired that the photograph was taken before the arrival of the emergency services by a member of the Derby Telegraph’s staff who happened to be passing.Before publishing its report, the newspaper had contacted the school, police and ambulance service. The latter confirmed that it had been called to attend a teenager with a suspected leg injury.The paper had not been able to contact the child’s family. Although it pixelated her face, the paper was unaware of the other girl’s relationship to her.Again, note how reasonable, helpful even, this paper was once they'd been made aware of the identity of those pictured, and the concerns of the mother:
After being made aware of the complaint, the Derby Telegraph immediately removed the image from its website. It also offered to remove the article from its website, and to write a private letter of apology to the complainant.Ipso’s complaints committee ruled that the immediate aftermath of an upsetting incident in which a young girl had been injured in full view of her sister was clearly an issue that related to the welfare of both girls.The uninjured sister was readily identifiable in the photograph, and the injured sister was likely to be identified because of the familial connection.Parental consent should have been sought for publication of the photograph, said the committee, and no exceptional public interest justified such publication without consent.The PCC allowed considerable slack over the 'public interest defence', but it seems IPSO is set to take a much tougher line on a justification the tabloids especially have long used as an excuse for almost any content.
Although the photograph had been taken on a public street, the committee took the view that the injured child had had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The photographing of the child represented a failure to respect her private life.And the committee further viewed the publication of the picture as distressing for the family, and so intruded into their grief and shock.The Telegraph was therefore required by Ipso to publish its adjudication, which can be found here.
Having said that ... IPSO did not require the paper to remove the article from its website.
3: DAILY MIRROR, JAN 2015: CLAUSES 3, (6)
Clause 6 is in brackets as the complainant, a child's father, referred to clause 3, but IPSO felt 6 was also of relevance, and so considered it too - another example of the superior proactivity of IPSO compared to the PCC. The father complained that the Mirror ran a story about his young son, "Curious three-year-old escapes from nursery and walks home alone", including a photograph, without his consent. His estranged wife had given consent, and was interviewed as part of the piece. The Mirror had also offered to remove the story from its website, but the father was not satisfied. IPSO rejected the complaint, noting, as with the Chat magazine example, that to censure the Mirror would be to restrict the mother's freedom of speech, and that Clause 6 requires only a custodial parent:
This section of the Code does not oblige newspapers to seek further permission from a second parent when publishing stories about children. [IPSO ruling page]
(privacy; Children [public interest defence])
This was another one that involved separate parents; the father was jailed for an incident which involved child endangerment, and the article essentially identified the child, leading to distressing inquiries. The paper wenst so far as to write an apology letter, offer a charitable donation, and immediately removed the story from its website.
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that an article published in the Chester Leader in October 2014 intruded into her child’s privacy, in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
2. The article was a court report about the complainant’s partner’s conviction for charges relating to an incident in which the child’s safety had been placed at risk. It named the complainant’s partner and included his partial address, noted his relationship to the child concerned, and gave an account of the circumstances, including the state in which the child had been found by police.
3. The complainant said that the article had allowed readers to identify her child, in breach of a reporting restriction imposed by the court which was intended to shield her from publicity. Other parents had now asked her about the incident in front of her child, causing significant distress. She was worried about the potential further consequences for her child.4. The newspaper apologised to the complainant for the distress caused by the article, and wrote her a private letter of apology; it also offered to make a donation to a children’s charity of her choice. It accepted that there had been a reporting restriction in place but said that it had been unaware of this prior to publication. It stated that there had been no reference to it at the hearing or mention of it in court documents, but acknowledged that the reporter should have made a greater effort to establish whether restrictions were in place. It noted that, when contacted by the complainant directly, it had taken immediate steps to ensure that the article did not appear on its website or in its sister newspaper [IPSO ruling page]
|You don't to read the text; just note how long it is and that IPSO insisted it appear on page 2, and even dictated the headline!|
5: BARNSLEY CHRONICLE, JAN 2015: CLAUSES 3, (6)
Just as with the Mirror example, this was a father complaining that, essentially, the mother had no right to agree to any media coverage of his child without his consent; this complaint was dismissed on the same grounds, with IPSO also noting that the story had been extensively shared on social media by the mother too, a further reason they could not agree that there had been a breach, a useful example of the digitisation/web 2.0 impact.
9. Further, in accordance with her right to freedom of expression, the child’s mother was entitled to speak to the press about her experience, and to offer comment on a matter that might cause concern among other parents for the safety of their children. [IPSO ruling page]
6: KATIE HOPKINS/THE S*N, MAY 2015: CLAUSE 1, 12
Moving away from children, this, and the Rod Liddle ruling below, are great for comparison with the Jan Moir case and others considered by the PCC. As one complaint (Hopkins) was rejected and another (Liddle; both from The S*n) upheld, its hard to argue a clear picture has yet emerged ... though its also notable that IPSO has quickly established a willingness to consider third party complaints, in stark contrast to the PCC. Remember, the Culture Select Committee condemned the PCC for its incessant refusal to do so, noting that it was within its own rules to do so!
Most of the complainants (over 400) wrote directly to IPSO rather than the Sun; as with the Jan Moir (Stephen Gateley) case, there was also an online petition. IPSO hasn't yet ruled on Clause 1 (how's that for up to date, contemporary examples!), but has rejected the Clause 12 Discrimination cases.
Roy Greenslade sums up the case (which, oddly, I can't find on IPSO's website!):
“Many complainants said the column breached clause 12 (discrimination) … while we noted the general concern that the column was discriminatory towards migrants, cause 12 is designed to protect identified individuals mentioned by the press against discrimination, and does not apply to groups or categories of people.So, bottom line, IPSO simply will not rule on any alleged discrimination if it is not against a specific individual - giving newspapers license to be as racist, xensophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic (etc!) as they wish, so long as they don't name any individuals! The United nations condemned this article for goodness sake!!! To be clear, Hopkins used language that has echoes of the Nazi anti-semitic propaganda, in which Jews were often referred to (and depicted) as vermin or rats:
“The concerns raised by the complainants that the article discriminated against migrants in general did not therefore raise a possible breach of clause 12.”
An Ipso spokesperson confirmed that the regulator does not have the power to pursue complaints about discrimination against groups of people if no individual is specified.
Last Friday, the regulator referred two other complaints over accuracy to the Sun, which has 28 days to resolve the complaints.
An Ipso spokesperson said: “We have referred two complaints to the newspaper’s internal complaints process which also raised possible breach under clause 1, (accuracy). If they are not resolved, Ipso will then investigate.”
Hopkins sparked widespread anger with the column suggesting that Europe should use gunboats to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean and comparing them to “cockroaches”.
A petition calling on the Sun to remove her column from the paper has reached almost 200,000 signatures, and the UN has released a statement condemning the column’s depiction of migrants.
Hopkins sparked widespread anger with the column suggesting that Europe should use gunboats to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean and comparing them to “cockroaches”.Now, here's the kicker ... that mysterious rival Impress has piped up over this:
Jonathan Heawood, founder of rival press regulator Impress, which has yet to launch, said: “Ipso is supposed to take complaints from representative groups, but now they’re saying that the code only prevents discrimination against individuals. Which is it? And why isn’t Ipso stepping in to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency?The NUJ, very unusually, also waded into condemn the IPSO ruling, surely not a good sign for IPSO?
But, wait, what's this ... could there be a super-fast change of heart? Read on...
7: ROD LIDDLE/THE S*N, MAY 2015: CLAUSE 12
This is quite remarkable; no sooner have they dismissed the complaints on discrimination grounds against the horrendous Hopkins column because there was no individual involved, and they don't rule on wider group (identity) discrimination than ... well, they do and they have!!!!
Rod Liddle used the blindness and transgendered status of a would-be MP to make crude jokes, with a subsequent apology column seen as simply reinforcing the attack (though IPSO rejected complaints against the follow-up).
I've re-read this quite a few times though and whilst IPSO have explicitly pronounced they're shifting policy to consider discimination against group identities, this is nonetheless linked to an individual, so I'm not so convinced it is such a clear shift. From the IPSO press release:
In a decision published today, IPSO upheld a complaint that the Rod Liddle column published by The Sun on Dec 11th 2014 in relation to Emily Brothers was in breach of the Editors’ Code.If anything, what is more notable is that IPSO actually rejected the Sun's initial printed apology and forced them to re-publish it in a larger article on the same, prominent, page as the original article.
This is the first complaint IPSO has considered from a representative group. Under new rules, IPSO may consider such a complaint ‘where an alleged breach of the Editors' Code is significant and there is substantial public interest in the Regulator considering the complaint from a representative group affected by the alleged breach’.
Trans Media Watch, acting with the consent of Ms Brothers, had complained to IPSO that the newspaper had breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the column on Dec 11th 2014 and in a further column on Jan 15th 2015. The IPSO Complaints Committee found that the initial article was discriminatory and therefore unacceptable under the terms of the code. It did not uphold further complaints under Clause 12 and Clause 3 on the second column.
The Committee required the newspaper to publish the ruling upholding the complaint in full on the same page as the column, which it did in today’s edition (Thursday 28th May) and online.
Roy Greenslade also commented on this:
I think this ruling is significant for two major reasons. Firstly, it set a benchmark by investigating a complaint made by a group. Secondly, it acted because the Sun, despite its remedies, had refused to concede that Liddle had breached the editors’ code.Greenslade is referring to the apparent failure of The Sun to fully meet IPSO's stipulations:
The decision to respond to a group acting on behalf of an individual suggests that Ipso has taken on board the concerns of many critics of its predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission.
I also believe that this could pave the way to further complaints because many individuals in the past have felt too cowed to argue their own case against newspapers. This, I believe, is how Ipso will proceed in future.
As for the complaint itself, it may be argued that Liddle was merely availing himself of his right to freedom of expression. But we need to remind ourselves that the code constraining the uninhibited exercise of that freedom was drawn up by editors who did not, and should not, regard it as a denial of press freedom.
The clause on discrimination states that “the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.
In poking fun at Brothers for being blind and being transgender Liddle was clearly in breach of that clause.
And now a question for the Sun (and Ipso): what about that missing headline?
The committee ordered the Sun to publish its decision upholding the complaint, adding: “The headline should make clear that Ipso has upheld the complaint, and refer to its subject matter; it must be agreed in advance” (NB: Ipso’s ruling, as published in print today, carries no proper headline).He doesn't miss a trick!
MediaReg posts on IPSO (tag): quite a few already
|Some of the posts linked to IPSO.|
Guardian (hostile) editorial marking IPSO's launch.
IPSO (official site) self-description.
IPSO names its board (Guardian)
Guardian Reader's Editor on dealing with expanded ombudsman system.