The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) can now demand quarterly statements from publications which commit serious code breaches giving details of all Code complaints over the period
It will also have the ability to investigate publications in the absence of a complaint, as well as controlling and writing its own complaints procedures.
The new rules, which come into force on 1 March, come after rival watchdog Impress revealed last month it is applying for recognition as a press regulator under the government’s Royal Charter.
IPSO has made clear it has no intention of applying for Charter recognition, on the grounds that this would amount to state regulation of the press.
Other new reforms improved by IPSO’s members, which include the majority of UK regional press titles, include the rules for carrying out a standards investigation being made simpler.
It will now also issue its own financial sanctions guidance, while remuneration of its board and complaints committee members will be set by the IPSO appointments panel.
IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses said: “Critics told me I would face an obstinate and immovable press which would stand in the way of any reform. They said we wouldn’t be able to make any changes to our rules. They were wrong.
“We identified what we wanted to amend and have made fundamental and far-reaching improvements that will reinforce IPSO’s power to carry out its work free from interference by those we regulate or by parliament.
“These reforms will offer more protection to the public and allow us to provide a more effective service.”
But Dr Evan Harris, joint executive director of the campaign group Hacked Off, took a dim view of the changes.
He said: “After 15 months of IPSO claiming that radical changes to make it more effective and more independent of the industry are being secured urgently, these minor changes are a damp-squib.
“The more that IPSO over-claim for these changes, the more it will seem that it is merely noise to disguise the fact that they remain wholly controlled by the large newspapers and are hopelessly ineffective at providing remedy for victims of press abuse.
“The vice-like grip of the large newspaper groups over IPSO appointments, over its constitution and over its rule book continues.”