The Independent Press Standards Organisation has launched the exercise, which will last three months, and invites comments on plans for “a quick and cheap means of solving legal disputes, other than through litigation, whilst preventing vexatious and frivolous claims”.
IPSO is seeking views on whether such a scheme should be mandatory for publishers which sign up to it, suitable timescales for arbitration claims, if it should be tailored for different sectors of the industry and various financial factors.
Following the consultation, IPSO could run a pilot scheme and may seek the industry’s agreement ro introduce it on a wider basis.
The regulator says the scheme would not replace its regulatory complaints handling process, and the two would be kept separate.
The consultation will run until 7 September.
Sir Alan Moses, chairman of IPSO said: “Arbitration is not just about reducing costs and delays associated with litigation, it is about widening access to justice for members of the public and is something I feel very strongly about.
“At the core of IPSO’s work is that we will support complainants who feel wronged by the press and this consultation asks for views on how an arbitration scheme could be part of that provision.
“I look forward to receiving responses from the public as well as the industry and commentators.”
The lack of an arbitration system has been one of the main criticisms levelled at Ipso by pressure groups such as Hacked Off.
Lord Justice Leveson called in his report on the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press for any new self-regulatory body to have an arbitration service to deal with civil legal claims against subscribing news organisations and publishers.
He said in Recommendation 22: “The process should be fair, quick and inexpensive, inquisitorial and free for complainants to use (save for a power to make an adverse order for the costs of the arbitrator if proceedings are frivolous or vexatious).”
Provision of an arbitration service is also a requirement for any would-be regulator which applies for recognition under the Royal Charter on Self Regulation of the Press – although Ipso has announced that it does not intend to seek recognition under the Charter.