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IPSO publishes its first adjudications

The new press regulator, IPSO, yesterday published its first set of adjudications on complaints, including the first use of its power to direct the nature and placement of a correction.

Sir Alan Moses, Chairman of IPSO, has also written to editors and publishers, setting out new guidance to the industry for publications’ own complaints handling processes.

In the three months since IPSO started work in September it has received nearly 3,000 complaints. Of those that have been concluded, many have been resolved between the publication and the complainant, under IPSO’s new procedures in which publications are given a maximum of 28 days to try to reach resolution with the complainant before IPSO takes up the case.

IPSO has also published the first adjudications of its Complaints Committee. These include the first use of IPSO’s new power to determine the nature and positioning of a complaint. In this instance the newspaper has been required to publish the correction on page three or further forward in the newspaper.

Sir Alan’s letter (below) also informs editors of the first requirements to be issued by IPSO regarding the operations of internal complaints handling systems. Every member publication should contain information informing readers how and to who they can complain about editorial issues. All complainants, raising issues relevant to IPSO’s remit, should be informed about the Editors’ Code and provided with IPSO’s contact details.

Sir Alan Moses, Chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) said: “In its first three months IPSO has received nearly 3,000 complaints, many of which have been resolved between publication and complainant, showing that the new system is working well. Our complaints staff provide an efficient and sensitive voice to those who seek to complain about a breach of the standards set in the Editor’s Code.

“For the future, we will strive to act in accordance with the principles we established in September, 2014. Now that we have agreed IPSO’s budget for 2015 and found new offices, we can start to shape IPSO’s standards function and set out to find the best means by which those who cannot afford court proceedings may seek resolution and redress from publications. We also expect to agree with the industry changes to IPSO’s rules and regulations that will simplify our procedures, and ensure that we can act as an effective independent regulator for the benefit of the public and the press.”

Details of how to register a complaint with IPSO are on the regulator’s website www.IPSO.co.uk.

The text of Sir Alan’s letter to publishers:

December 2014

Dear Name,

The Independent Press Standards Organisation launched three months ago. We are now approaching the Christmas season, and I wanted to let you have an update on our work. I am also writing to notify you that the Board has issued new requirements in relation to the operation of publishers’ internal complaints procedures, which are outlined below.

We have spent our first three months laying the foundations for IPSO’s first full year of operations. Implementing our new complaints function was an early priority, and it is now operating well. IPSO has received nearly 3,000 complaints and issued nearly 30 private advisory notices. These are early days, but the complaints staff have reported to me that they are pleased that publications are taking seriously their responsibilities to maintain internal complaints processes and that a large number of the substantive complaints that have been made via IPSO are being resolved amicably and swiftly through these means.

We welcome the steps that publishers have taken to ensure that we have been able to make a positive start, which in many cases has included new complaints procedures and new web-based complaints forms. The diversity of approaches taken has, once again, demonstrated that there is no universally applicable model. The Board and I intend to study further the procedures put in place at various titles to see what lessons can be learned. In the meantime, however, the Board has agreed that as a first step, we need to ensure that all complainants are provided with the basic level of information they need in order to take advantage of their right to seek redress.

IPSO’s Board has therefore agreed to the following requirements in relation to the operation of complaints procedures, which will be published on IPSO’s website:

1. Each member publication – print or online – should contain information indicating to whom complaints about editorial issues should be directed.

2. Complainants raising concerns that, in the view of the publication, appear to raise a potential issue under the Editors’ Code of Practice should be informed of the existence of the Editors’ Code of Practice (if it is not cited in the complaint).

3. Complainants raising concerns that, in the view of the publication, appear to raise a potential issue under the Editors’ Code of Practice should be informed that the publication is regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation and provided with relevant contact details.

In most cases, publications already provide this information to complainants, but if your titles are not already doing so, we would expect you to take any steps necessary within the next 28 days to ensure that they are in compliance with these requirements, under Articles 3.3.4 and 3.3.8 of the Scheme Membership Agreement.

Beyond establishing IPSO’s complaints function, another early priority has been thoroughly reviewing IPSO’s Rules and Regulations. Our review has been based on the idea that IPSO cannot be fair, and cannot attract public confidence and respect, if no-one can simply speedily and readily understand the procedural rules it is going to apply. IPSO’s ability to be a genuine regulator will not depend so much on the nature of its conclusions, but on the processes and procedures by which they are reached, and we are determined that these should be as straightforward and transparent as possible.

In early December, I wrote to several members of the Regulatory Funding Company, who had agreed to liaise between IPSO and the industry for the purpose of negotiating changes. I explained IPSO’s concerns about the current state of the Rules and Regulations and, in order to ensure that our conversations can progress as swiftly as possible, proposed specific changes to the documentation. I understand that the relevant members of the RFC are currently reviewing these proposals and look forward to beginning discussions in early January, but I will update you all in due course.

The new year should also see a rapid development of IPSO’s new standards-raising functions and its public presence. Early in 2015, you will start to see IPSO begin to communicate much more frequently and more positively about our work and our principles, both to the public and within the industry. As you may know, I have already visited a number of publications to learn more about how journalism is practised today, and I look forward to doing many more such visits. Please do get in touch with my office if you would like to meet.

With best wishes

Sir Alan Moses

Chairman

Independent Press Standards Organisation