Today sees the release of the Pilling Review into press regulator IPSO, a review which was commissioned by IPSO and therefore funded by IPSO’s paymasters, the Regulatory Funding Company, or, to put it in plain English, the larger part of the Fourth Estate. And by the most miraculous of coincidences, the review has come to the conclusion that all in the IPSO garden is rosy. It would have been inconvenient had it come out the other way.
Press Gazette has told “An external review of press regulator IPSO by a retired civil servant has concluded that it is independent, effective and largely compliant with the recommendations of the 2012 Leveson Report”. Hollow laughter could be heard emanating from all those who had been brushed off by IPSO, seen it wipe the press’ collective backsides, or refuse to apply for recognition.
This last means it can never satisfy the Leveson criteria. Nor did Pilling say IPSO was independent, concluding “Because of the need for funding, absolute or complete independence from both the industry and government is not possible … What is required of a regulator of the press is sufficient independence”. The “Government” comment is an irrelevance. And it’s either independent, or it is not. IPSO is not independent.
There are other gems: “Pilling found the Editors’ Code was subject to little criticism and he accepted that the committee which draws it up should be largely made up of serving editors”. The Editor’s Code is not the problem. It is the willingness to ignore it, and IPSO’s attempts to reinterpret it in order to minimise or dismiss complaints that is the problem.
And this from the Press Gazette report sums it up: “Pilling said he believed upheld IPSO complaints are ‘taken very seriously by the industry, and by editors specifically’ … And he noted that IPSO has ruled 13 times that corrections should feature on the front page … However, he said that IPSO’s rule that corrections should have ‘due prominence’ remained ‘an elusive concept’”. Yes, because the press doesn’t take IPSO seriously at all.
Hell, Tony Gallagher of the Sun said, after having his knuckles rapped by IPSO over one pack of lies just said he’d do it again. Small wonder that campaigning group Hacked Off have called the whole thing a “Bogus process”. And after all the exertions of Sir Joseph Pilling, the final response was “IPSO has yet to reveal whether it will adopt all or any of the Pilling recommendations”. Plus the real reason for the release lies elsewhere.
Yesterday in the House of Lords, an amendment to the Investigatory Powers bill passed with a majority of more than 100. Press Gazette again: “The amendment is a more limited version of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 … The amendment states that publishers would be subject to the extra legal costs unless they are part of a press regulator which is approved by the Royal Charter-backed Press Recognition Panel”.
With the Government still stalling on Section 40, and truly independent regulator Impress set to find out in less than a fortnight’s time whether it has gained recognition, this is the real reason for the IPSO whitewash. But as Zelo Street regulars will know, IPSO was and remains a sham regulator, the same PCC fluid in a differently labelled bottle.
We need a press that is free but accountable. We will get it, and the sooner the better.