Independent and Evening Standard managing director Andrew Mullins has described the publisher’s relationship with new press regulator Ipso as “not miles apart” and said the organisations are “trying to find a way to get closer”.
Speaking to The Drum ahead of Ipso’s launch on 8 September when it will take over from the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), Mullins said the Independent was not yet ready to make a final decision but discussions with Ipso to iron out remaining concerns were ongoing and the publisher “would like to be part of an official body”.
“We’re not miles apart and we’re trying to find a way to get closer,” he said, “and if we can we want to be part of the industry rather than make separate moves outside of it.
“We’re very committed to playing our part in the industry, but this is a sensitive matter. This is about our readers, our brands, our fit. When we’re sure our readers are happy that we’re making the right moves on behalf of them, our brands and our papers, we’ll make that move.
“There are a couple of little teething things we’ve got to get through yet, but we’re committed to being a part of the industry. We’re not interested in being separated from it.
“We’ve got items on the table we’re discussing with Ipso, but we’re not yet in a position to make a plunge. Ultimately there’s nothing that’s irresolvable.”
In the interim period while talks carry on, Mullins said the Independent would increase resources for its internal complaints handling system.
“We have a pretty robust internal system anyway where we try and deal with as many complaints and issues before they go anywhere near the PCC.
“Our titles have very few complaints that aren’t manageable within our own system, but we’re intending to resource up to manage any additional complaints that we would need to. We have an interim process in place.
“We tend to be extraordinarily compliant and vigilant in the way we approach our news publishing process to try and avoid as many potential issues as we possibly can before they get to print. We have a very low level to deal with in the first place, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be within an official body. We definitely would like to be there if we could but we’re still in discussions.”
The Independent and the Guardian are the only major publishers yet to decide whether or not sign up to Ipso. The Financial Times has opted to create an internal system of regulation on account of having more of an internationally-based readership.
The Guardian will discuss press regulation at a meeting of the Scott Trust today (3 September), but a spokesman said it “remains to be seen” whether Ipso will guarantee independence from politicians and gain public support.
“As Guardian News & Media has previously stated, we have not ruled out joining an industry regulator that demonstrated independence from politicians and credibility with the public,” the spokesperson said. “It remains to be seen whether Ipso is that regulator.
“The Guardian already has an independent readers’ editor, who is appointed by and reports to The Scott Trust. It’s already a tried and tested model – last year the Guardian published 3,000 corrections online and in print – but we’re constantly exploring how it can be further enhanced and supplemented to provide even stronger and more efficient independent redress for complainants.
“The Scott Trust meets on 3 September and will discuss a range of proposals. We will confirm our plans thereafter.”
Ipso is backed by all the main newspaper publishers in the UK, but is strongly opposed to the government’s Royal Charter proposal on press regulation which requires any new regulator to apply for recognition to operate.
The press industry has been criticised by press reform campaign group Hacked Off, which claims Ipso will not be a significant departure from the PCC, which was criticised during the Leveson Inquiry.
Meanwhile, a rival press regulator, Impress, is planning to launch later this year, although so far has signed up only smaller, local publishers.