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Rivals fire starting gun for new era of press regulation

The race to bring new versions of self-regulation to the press has gone into overdrive in the last 24 hours.

Two rival bodies are vying for their own media attention – with announcements to bolster campaigns on which one is best equipped to help rebuild public confidence in the wake of the industry’s phone-hacking scandal.

First out of the blocks was Sir Alan Moses, chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, who yesterday wrote to publishers to confirm that his new voluntary body will be launched on Monday, 8 September – officially replacing the Press Complaints Commission.

This morning Impress – the group said to be completely independent from both the journalism industry and the government as well as ready to fully implement the recommendations of the Leveson report – announced the line-up of its appointments’ panel.

The nine-man panel – chaired by former Birmingham Post and Mail journalist and veteran press campaigner Aidan White and including Caerphilly Observer editor Richard Gurner – will choose the first board. Impress hopes to be ‘live’ by the end of the year.

The Impress appointment panel also includes AA Services chairman Ashok Gupta; former pensions regulator Caroline Instance; Legal Services Board chief executive Chris Kenny; leading charity lawyer Tom Murdoch; independent sustainability consultant Penny Shepherd; London School of Economics associate professor Damian Tambini; and human rights director Salil Tripathi.

Panel chairman Aidan said: “I’m delighted to welcome the members to their new roles and I look forward to working with them.

“It is now up to us to choose the board and take another step towards establishing Impress, the Independent Monitor for the Press, a truly independent press regulator.”

A decision will have to be made by the board on whether or not the body applies for official recognition under the Royal Charter process.

And if Impress does seek, and gain, official recognition this will lead to the triggering of the clause in the Crime and Courts Act which means that all publishers who are not part of Royal Charter-recognised regulator may have to pay costs for both sides, even if they win a libel case.

This clause only comes into force once there is a Royal Charter-recognised regulator available.

The Impress campaign – started last year with the backing of legendary former Times, Sunday Times and Northern Echo editor Sir Harold Evans – is seeking a new middle way on press regulation.

More than 90pc of regional and national publishers have signed up to the industry’s new proposed self-regulator Ipso in defiance of the government’s proposed Royal Charter plan.

But there is a small number of publishers – thought to number less than 20 – who have refused to join Ipso on the grounds that it is not sufficiently independent of the big groups.

From a week on Monday, complainants to Ipso who raise substantive concerns under the Editors’ Code will be referred directly to publications to resolve their complaints.

Sir Alan, who stressed the need for publishers to now have effective complaints-handling systems in place, said Ipso would provide a form of open and accessible regulation for the benefit of the public and the press.

As an independent regulator, Ipso is committed to maintaining a free and independent press and building public trust in its work, he added.

Most of the regional press have elected to be subject to a regulation which dates back more than 60 years to the original formation of the former Press Council in 1953. The new body is being set up despite its proposed charter being rejected by the Privy Council,

Last year complaints about regional press stories accounted for nearly three in 10 cases investigated by the now-defunct PCC.

Former Leicester Mercury, South Wales Echo and Derby Evening Telegraph editor Keith Perch is the regional press representative on the 12-man board.