Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Seeing double

The potential farce of double press regulation is looming as the Royal Charter’s Press Recognition Panel moves closer to approving IMPRESS, a rival to the main industry backed regulator IPSO.

IMPRESS recognition would mean that publishers not agreeing to Royal Charter-approved policing of their editorial standards could face penalties in media law disputes.

Sections 34 and 40 of the 2013 Crime and Courts Act give the courts power to impose punitive damages, and force media defendants to pay all sides’ costs whether they win or lose.

The panel intended to declare its decision on August 23, but this was delayed after the News Media Association intervened and complained that: “The process followed by the PRP appears to have been designed with a view to granting recognition to IMPRESS under the Royal Charter without proper regard to the Charter’s requirements.”

Most of the UK press and magazine industry has contracted to independent self-regulation through the successor body to the Press Complaints Commission, namely the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

This is headed by the former Appeal Court judge Sir Alan Moses QC and has recently introduced a low-cost pilot arbitration scheme for media law disputes.

The NMA warned the Press Recognition Panel chair David Wolfe QC that if it had granted recognition to IMPRESS it “will be susceptible to challenge that its decision is substantively and procedurally irrational and unfair.”

The NMA has told the PRP that it can only properly discharge its public functions by refusing recognition of IMPRESS. It says that IMPRESS lacks public transparency over its funding, which it says is substantially dependent on a family trust linked to the media victim campaigner Max Mosley.

Mosley won £60,000 damages from the now defunct News of the World for an article alleging that an S&M party he had paid to take part in was a Nazi-themed orgy.

He is pursuing an action to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg seeking the right of all potential media privacy victims to be notified prior to publication.

CIoJ President Mark Croucher commented: “The Institute is wholly opposed to a situation where a state approved regulator has legal privileges such as immunity from punitive damages for members being sued in media law cases.”

He added: “It’s farcical that there could be two different regulators, with two separate codes of ethics.”