A Question of Values: IMPRESS Versus IPSO

IMPRESS continues to put IPSO to shame as it shows how a responsible and accountable media regulator should behave.

Credit: Bywire News, Canva
Credit: Bywire News, Canva
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LONDON (Bywire News) - The Leveson Inquiry produced two very different regulators. One was the regulator we deserve, IPSO, the other is the regulator we need – IMPRESS. As it seeks to refresh its standards to cater to the digital age, it represents a very different vision of what a regulator should be – one that puts the stooges at IPSO to shame. 

When the Leveson report was published some people genuinely believed it would mark a turning point in press accountability. What was supposed to be part one of the report uncovered a seedy world of abuse, harassment, surveillance and even possible criminal activity. The fallout was so bad that politicians even plucked up the nerve to (albeit briefly) criticise Rupert Murdoch. 

Then things went back to normal. David Cameron first delayed then shelved the second report and when IMPRESS launched in 2018 with standards that met the standards set down by Leveson, most of Fleet Street went with the much less demanding IPSO. 

Since its launch, IPSO has been like a negligent teacher, reading his paper while his class runs amok. In terms of penalties, it’s been virtually dormant. When people complained about a Katie Hopkins column comparing migrants crossing the channel as cockroaches IPSO said there was no case to answer as she had not singled out an individual. 

Earlier this year it refused requests to launch a standards investigation against the Jewish Chronicle despite it breaching the Editors Code of Conduct 33 times in three years and admitting libel on four occasions. 

It was a decision that prompted Hacked Off Chief Executive Nathan Sparkes to comment: 

“IPSO is making it up as it goes along, just to help publishers wriggle out of a standards investigation.  This is not only newspapers marking their own homework.  They are running the exam boards and changing the grading system when they are failing.”

IMPRESS, meanwhile, set out standards that followed Leveson’s guidelines. Those media outlets which sign up to it are awarded a Trust in Journalism mark to demonstrate their commitment to responsible, truthful and accountable reporting. To date, they regulate a total of 194 publications including top independent news sites such as Bellingcat, Byline Investigations, New Internationalist and Bywire. 

That the mainstream media seems unwilling to meet what should be fairly minimal standards of telling the truth and avoiding abuse, tells you everything about how they intend to behave. Indeed, since its inception, IMPRESS has faced constant hostility from the most toxic quarters of Fleet Street. To them, the prospect of a regulator which is prepared to hold them to account is about as appealing as dry January is to many of their reporters. 

With its new set of standards, IMPRESS continues to show the way forward. While IPSO has sat back and watched the UK press slide back into the gutter. IMPRESS is working to see how it can continue to protect the public from the worst instincts of the media.  

You can get more information about the consultation and find out how to complete responses on the IMPRESS website.

(Writing by Tom Cropper, editing by Klaudia Fior)

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