AddThis SmartLayers

‘Comply with Leveson or face Section 40 next year’, MPs tell IPSO

Damian CollinsThe press watchdog should be given a one-year deadline to comply with the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry or face the implementation of Section 40, say MPs.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its response to the Government’s consultation on the implementation of the controversial legislation, which would mean that any newspaper not signed up to a state-sponsored regulator could be forced to pay both sides’ costs in a privacy or libel action.

In its response, the Committee said the costs of a pilot arbitration scheme offered by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which is optional for members, should be reduced in order to comply with the vision set out by Leveson for low cost arbitration.

The government’s consultation on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act closed last month and ministers are now deciding whether it should be implemented, repealed, or simply kicked into the long grass.

At present, the Max Mosley-funded body Impress is the only recognised press watchdog under the government’s Royal Charter.

But most publishers have refused to join it on principle, saying the Royal Charter amounts to state-sponsored press regulation.

Committee chair Damian Collins MP, pictured above left, said: “It is over four years since Lord Leveson published his report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. In that time we have yet to see established a system of independent self-regulation for print media that is credible both to the public and the press.

“If the vast majority of newspapers and magazines continue to refuse, on principle, to accept regulation under the terms of the Royal Charter, then the government should create an alternative path, that would allow IPSO to become established as the preferred body to take responsibility for the self-regulation of the press.

“However for this to be achieved, the Committee believes that IPSO needs to make substantial progress in establishing a low cost arbitration scheme to consider complaints against the press, to increase the resources at its disposal to launch investigations, and to fund a campaign to inform the public about how and where to make complaints to IPSO.

“If IPSO can make the necessary reforms to become compliant with the spirit of the Leveson recommendations, then the government should repeal the provisions within Section 40 that relate to the awarding of costs in court cases taken up against the press.”

He added: “The Committee does not believe that Section 40 should be repealed at this stage, and instead asks that the government give the press one year to make their proposed regulator, IPSO, Leveson compliant.”

An IPSO spokesman said: “We will read the Committee’s submission with interest.”