The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) – Five Years On

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The Media Standards Trust today publishes an update to the landmark 2013 assessment of the IPSO regulatory system, created by parts of the newspaper industry in competition to the proposed system laid out in the Leveson Report and agreed by press victims and all parties in Parliament.


  • Of the 38 Leveson recommendations for an independent and effective self-regulatory system for the press, IPSO in 2019 satisfies 13 – just over one third – and fails 25;
  • Of the six cases for which there was insufficient evidence in 2013 to determine whether IPSO satisfied the Leveson recommendation or not, subsequent evidence shows that IPSO fails to satisfy any;
  • Changes to IPSO’s rules and regulations has resulted in IPSO satisfying two recommendations it was previously judged to have failed; conversely, there is one recommendation that IPSO now fails after being judged to satisfy in 2013.


The Trust’s reassessment coincides with IPSO’s five-year anniversary and sets out how the regulatory system matches up to the 38 recommendations the Leveson Report made for an independent and effective self-regulatory regime after five years of operation and periodic changes to IPSO’s rules and regulations.


The study finds that while the changes to IPSO mean that two recommendations – concerning the composition of the Complaints Committee and the provision of advice to the public – are now met that previously were not. Conversely, one recommendation – on transparency of members’ internal governance processes – is now judged not to be satisfied on the basis of information not available in 2013.


Of six recommendations in 2013 where the MST assessment pronounced that there was insufficient evidence to judge whether IPSO did or did not satisfy the Leveson recommendations, evidence accrued since the regulator began operations in 2014 shows that none are satisfied.


Overall, IPSO fails to satisfy 25 out of 38 Leveson recommendations.


The study finds that structural problems in the IPSO system identified in the original 2013 assessment concerning independence, complaints, investigations and sanctions and the Code of Practice largely remain in place.


Dr Gordon Ramsay, Visiting Researcher at the University of Westminster and author of the study, said: “While IPSO has secured some concessions from the newspaper industry over the past five years it is clear that the continued influence of the Regulatory Funding Company fundamentally undermines the independence of the system, while restrictions on recording code breaches and barriers to launching standards investigations compromise the effectiveness of IPSO to regulate the industry that set it up.”


“The recommendations set out in the Leveson Report were the culmination of a 14-month long inquiry featuring testimony from hundreds of witnesses from across journalism, politics and civil society. They remain the primary benchmark for assessing the self-regulation of an industry prone to cyclical failure over the past seven decades. For IPSO to continue to so comprehensively fail to meet these criteria is a serious concern.”


The study also addresses the parallel assessment of IPSO’s compliance with the Leveson Recommendations included in the Review of IPSO conducted by Sir Joseph Pilling in 2016. The present study notes that the Pilling Review failed to address the role of the Industry Funding Company at various points of the regulatory system, gave IPSO credit for aspects of the Editors’ Code over which it has limited influence and made a number of contestable concessions to IPSO where Leveson recommendations had been unilaterally rejected by the regulator. A comparison of the MST’s assessment and that of the Pilling Review is included in Appendix 2 of the study.


Read the original 2013 analysis here.