Press regulator IPSO has a launched a new low-cost libel disputes arbitration scheme in a move which publishers hope will finally kill off threatened statutory press regulation.
The move comes as the Government continues to mull over whether to force news publishers into a Royal Charter-backed system of press regulation by commencing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.
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This would impose potentially crippling costs on news publishers by forcing them to pay libel and privacy claimants’ legal costs in all cases, win or lose, if they are not part of a Royal Charter-backed press regulator.
Currently Impress is the only press regulator which is compliant with the Leveson Inquiry recommendations set out in the Royal Charter, a key part of which is providing a libel and privacy disputes arbitration scheme which is free for claimants.
IPSO represents the vast majority of UK newspaper and magazine publishers.
The committee recommended that Section 40 should be repealed, provided that:
- IPSO made substantial progress in establishing a low cost arbitration scheme to consider complaints against the press
- Increase the resources at its disposal to launch investigations
- Funded a campaign to inform the public about how and where to make complaints to IPSO.
A government consultation on whether to commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 in full, or in part, and on whether to hold part two of the Leveson Inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal was completed in January this year. A decision from the government is now expected before Christmas.
IPSO has slashed the costs of its arbitration scheme to a nominal £50 administration fee for claimants and a further £50 to take the case to a full hearing.
Under the previous IPSO arbitration scheme, launched a year ago, claimants were asked to pay £300 plus VAT to lodge a claim and £2,800 plus VAT to take a case to a full claim. That scheme resulted in no claims being made.
The new IPSO arbitration scheme remains voluntary (meaning publishers can pick which cases to take forward). And it has a damages ceiling of £50,000 (versus payouts of more than £200,000 for privacy and libel which can be achieved in the civil courts).
All the UK national newspaper titles who are members of IPSO have signed up to the scheme with the exception of the websites Mail Online and Metro.co.uk.
Unregulated newspaper titles such as The Guardian, Financial Times and Evening Standard can also join the scheme.
IPSO said that its new scheme “offers low-cost access to justice as envisaged in the Leveson report”.
It said that under the new scheme publishers will fund all the administration cost and the arbitrators’ fees.
It said: “The IPSO arbitration scheme is a method of dispute resolution used to provide a cost-effective, straightforward and quick method of solving legal disputes between claimants and participating members of the press, including claims for libel, slander, misuse of private information, breach of confidence, malicious falsehood, harassment and data protection.
“It is a voluntary scheme in which both parties agree to binding arbitration overseen by specialist barristers.”
IPSO chief executive Matt Tee said: “A key theme of the Leveson report was access to justice for those that can’t afford to go to court. The new IPSO scheme means that anyone can bring a claim against a newspaper for a fee of £50.
“Access to low-cost arbitration is an important part of the service we offer to the public and I’m pleased that we have been able to reduce the up-front cost of arbitration for a claimant to just £50. In fact, even if the hearing proceeds to final ruling, the maximum it will cost a member of the public is £100, thus making the IPSO scheme fully Leveson-compliant.
“The culture select committee called for IPSO to offer low cost arbitration in its response to the DCMS consultation on Section 40. We have listened and acted.”
Publications taking part in the IPSO arbitration scheme:
- The Daily Mirror
- The Sunday Mirror
- The Sunday People
- The Press Association
- The Daily Telegraph
- The Sunday Telegraph
- The Weekly Telegraph
- The Daily Express
- The Sunday Express
- The Daily Star
- The Daily Mail
- The Mail on Sunday
- The Sun
- The Times
- The Times Literary Supplement
- The Sunday Times
- The Conde Nast UK portfolio of magazines
- Magazines published by Northern and Shell (New!, OK!, and Star).
Those not taking part in the scheme:
- All the regional newspaper titles regulated by IPSO
- The vast majority of magazine titles
- Mail Online
- Unregulated newspaper titles like The Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times.