The newspaper and magazine industries have announced a timetable for the "toughest regulator anywhere in the developed world" in a move designed to outflank politicians and bypass a Royal Charter on press regulation due to go before the Queen next week.
In a dramatic development in the long-running saga prompted by the tabloid phone-hacking scandal, a consortium of newspaper and magazine industry trade bodies set out final plans for the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which could be operational by next year. Newspapers are due to begin signing contracts for the new body in the immediate weeks.
The Industry Implementation Group published 80 pages of legal documents on a dedicated new IPSO website in what the main political parties will see as a direct challenge to the system proposed in a Parliament-approved Royal Charter, which was fiercely opposed by almost all sections of the press.
The newspaper industry has also applied for judicial review of the rejection of its own Royal Charter on press regulatory reform by a Privy Council sub-committee this month.
In a statement, Paul Vickers, the group's chairman and Executive Director of Trinity Mirror plc, said the IPSO plans were the result of nine months of work following the publication of Lord Justice Leveson's report on press reform.
"As a result of this painstaking and thorough exercise, we can now move to establish the tough, independent, effective regulator that Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report," he said.
"I am confident that what we have produced will be the toughest regulator anywhere in the developed world - one which will guarantee the public the protection it deserves, but which will also ensure we maintain the free press on which our democracy is founded."
The IPSO system will create a regulator with "tough powers" of investigation, enforcement and sanction, the group said. It will also be able to impose fines of up to £1m on errant publishers.
Publishers will now be asked to sign IPSO contracts, a process expected to take eight weeks. The new body has the backing of the Newspaper Society, which represents the regional press, and the PPA, trade body for the magazine sector.
IPSO will be run by individuals chosen via an independent appointments process set up by a Foundation Group headed by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, a former judge and president of the Supreme Court.
Bob Satchwell, president of the Society of Editors, said that the system ensured that editors would be "three steps removed" from IPSO's complaints process. "Whatever other things are happening IPSO can be up and running in 2014," he said. "What I would hope is that it goes ahead as quickly as possible and puts all the shenanigans of the last couple of years behind us."
The IPSO plans were largely set out in an alternative Royal Charter put forward by a large section of the press but rejected by a sub-committee of the Privy Council, which ruled this month that it was not compliant with Leveson's wishes. A Royal Charter originally drawn up by political parties in March and slightly amended this month is due to be considered by the Privy Council on 30 October.
Large newspaper groups - including the publishers of the Daily Mail, The Times and the Daily Telegraph - have objected to the proposals by MPs, which include controversial plans for an arbitration system and potential exemplary damages imposed on newspapers which do not sign up. The document could be amended by future Parliaments. The mechanism of a Royal Charter has been criticised by Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, as a "medieval piece of nonsense". The Independent and i newspapers are still considering their positions.
Hugh Grant's Hacked Off campaign denounced the latest press announcement as "predictable and self-serving".
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