Ipso under the lens: New independent press regulator gets off to rocky start

Charlotte Henry
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The News of the World was closed down in the wake of the hacking scandal
Formed in the wake of the phone hacking scandal just four months ago, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) hasn’t had the most auspicious of starts.

There have been fears over funding, and perceived similarities to the previous regulatory regime. Yesterday, its bosses appeared in front of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee to explain its current position.

The session did not start well for Ipso. Hannah Weller, a well-known campaigner for press privacy for children, and wife of the musician Paul Weller, criticised the body: “I feel like Ipso is the PCC all over again,” she said. Weller also commented: “I don’t have any more faith in the current regulator than the Press Complaints Commission [PCC].”

When Ipso chair Sir Alan Moses, and chief executive Matt Tee, came to answer questions from the committee, it felt very much like he was starting on the back foot. Moses himself readily explained that he had “enormous misgivings” when he initially took on the role.

Ipso has faced various criticisms since its inception, mainly revolving around its perceived similarity to the unpopular previous regulator the PCC. There are also concerns that Ipso does not comply fully with the recommendations laid out by Lord Justice Leveson, who conducted the public inquiry into phone hacking and press culture.

In recent days, Ipso has been under pressure again, for its cautious response to allegations by former senior Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne, who quit the paper saying it had failed to sufficiently cover allegations about HSBC bank assisting tax evasion for commercial reasons.

Oborne alleged the paper had been letting its readers down by not giving more prominence to the stories.

Ipso has previously told City A.M. that the reason its response has been limited is because the issues are not covered by the Editors’ Code of

Con­duct, which it administrates. The Ipso board will, however, discuss the issue at its next meeting in March.

On the Telegraph allegations, Moses said yesterday: “We need to acquire information about the facts, not just from Mr Oborne and from the Telegraph… [but also] from others because the really important question is surely how you carry that forward into some meaningful rule within a code that would underline the importance of the separation between and commercialism and editorial judgement in journalism.”

While far from claiming his organisation is perfect, Moses defended it robustly enough. He clashed with MPs on the committee, notably Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, who questioned the independence of some board members

Moses said:“The press have said they wanted an independent regulator, and we are going to hold them to that, and we believe we can achieve that”.

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