The Sun’s publisher, News UK, is desperate for the new press regulator to be regarded as a watchdog with teeth.
Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper stable was a prime mover in the founding of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which was created in response to the phone-hacking scandal that caused the media tycoon to close down the News of the World.
If Ipso establishes its credibility, the big publishers know there is little prospect of Parliament’s interference in the free press, a scenario they greatly feared at the time of Lord Justice Leveson’s investigation into the industry’s standards.
The problem for The Sun is that it has become a repeated target for Ipso’s incisors, just as Jeremy Corbyn is meat for the red top. That it was told to apologise on its front page for trashing the Labour leader will be galling. Worse, Mr Corbyn didn’t even complain.
It’s hard to imagine this outcome would have happened under the previous watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission.
Ipso has previously made The Sun run a prominent correction on the page of its columnist Rod Liddle, following comments about the transgender politician Emily Brothers. Ipso also upheld a complaint against the tabloid made by the family of the murderer Levi Bellfield.
The regulator has found against The Daily Telegraph on seven occasions.
The Sun’s Privy Council story ran on the morning after the new editor Tony Gallagher’s first day in the job. He will not be happy at Ipso’s ruling. But News UK must back a regulator that it so wants to succeed.
One of the publisher’s most outspoken champions, Trevor Kavanagh, chief leader writer for The Sun, has just been appointed to the Ipso board. 21 December was his first day. Immediately, he is seeing his own paper made to grovel.
But for Ipso, which is still seeking to persuade titles including The Guardian and The Independent that it’s more than a convenient vehicle for the publishers who set it up, this latest ruling will have done no harm.