Papers ready to defy MPs on regulation

Newspapers and magazines plan to set up a rival organisation to the royal charter prepared by politicians

Senior newspaper figures were finalising plans yesterday for a new independent press regulator which is likely to operate in defiance of a system outlined on Friday in a royal charter prepared by politicians.

More than 100 pages of legal documentation were being prepared to pave the way for a new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which could end up regulating newspaper organisations that have not signed up to the recognition panel set out in the royal charter drawn up by MPs.

Ipso is being planned by the publishers of the Daily Mail, The Times and The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror. Other groups, including the publishers of the Independent titles and The Guardian, have reserved their position as to whether they will sign up to the proposed new body.

Tim Luckhurst, a professor of journalism at the University of Kent, said that the likelihood was "we will have a recognition panel with nothing to recognise and an Independent Press Standards Organisation which is not recognised".

"It's a complete mess," said Chris Blackhurst, group content director at The Independent and London Evening Standard. "Politicians and the large newspaper organisations are adopting completely entrenched positions. At this stage it's hard to see how they can be dissuaded from going ahead with their own regulator and be persuaded to sign up to the royal charter."

The large newspaper groups have spent the past eight months drawing up plans for Ipso. Publishers that refuse to sign up to a recognition panel set out in the charter could be subject to exemplary damages if actions against them are upheld in court. Some news groups hold that such penalties are unfair and are now considering legal challenges to the charter, on the grounds that the threat of damages is a means of forcing newspapers to sign up.

Late amendments to the charter may have been designed to head off legal challenges. Local newspapers will be able to opt out of a new complaints arbitration system if it is causing them "serious financial harm" in the estimation of the recognition panel. A small fee has been introduced to the arbitration system to dissuade abuses by claims farmers from chasing compensation payments.

The changes have not appeased newspaper industry trade bodies, which issued a joint statement on Friday describing the charter as being "written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians". They said: "It has not been approved by any of the newspapers or magazines it seeks to regulate." Among the signatories to the statement were bodies representing the national press, the regional and Scottish newspapers and the magazine sector.

"The most important thing is finalising Ipso," said an industry source last night. "There's a huge amount going on in the legal documentation to shore that up. We need to get it up and running."

John Witherow, editor of The Times, told the BBC last week that he believed the newspaper industry might have to go it alone and seek to win back the trust of the public. "I think the press must go ahead with its own form of self-regulation and prove to the public and politicians that it's fair and robust and free."

Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, publicly warned yesterday that "politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation". Using the unlikely platform of the pages of The Guardian, he appealed for the press to take a united front in opposing the interference of "those who rule us" in overseeing newspapers.

The Mail editor claimed that his paper, which has been condemned for its treatment of the late father of the Labour leader Ed Miliband, shared common ground with The Guardian, which has faced criticism for its coverage of secret files leaked by computer contractor Edward Snowden.

"While the Mail does not agree with The Guardian over the stolen secret security files it published, I suggest that we can agree that the fury and recrimination the story is provoking reveals again why those who rule us – and who should be held to account by newspapers – cannot be allowed to sit in judgment on the press," he wrote.

In evidence to the Leveson inquiry, Mr Dacre said he detected the "rank smells of hypocrisy and revenge" in the pursuit of the press by the political class. That was a rare public foray from a powerful editor who prefers a low profile.

But the row over his paper's coverage of Ralph Miliband has exposed Mr Dacre to fierce personal criticism and calls for his resignation. In his article yesterday, he denied that the traducing of the late Marxist academic as "The Man Who Hated Britain" had given succour to those demanding that newspapers need to answer to statute. "I would argue the opposite," he said. "The febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by [the] row reveals why politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation."

Professor Luckhurst identified a clause in the charter that allows for it to be altered by future parliaments, provided there is a two-thirds majority in both houses, as a "red line in the sand" for newspaper publishers.

Meanwhile, Hacked Off, the press reform group which includes the actor Hugh Grant, was unimpressed with the late changes to the charter. It complained that "there have been further concessions to the press industry lobby".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss