News industry regulator IPSO has indicated that it is unable to regulate news agencies which do not publish content themselves.
UK-owned press agency Central European News is seeking to join the Independent Press Standards Association, which regulates most of the UK’s newspapers and magazines as well as Press Association.
In response IPSO has said it is still considering the application but indicated that it is unlikely to be able to offer CEN membership.
It quoted Articles of Association which state: “The company may only regulate an entity (other than a broadcaster) which publishes a printed newspaper or magazine and/or editorial content on electronic services in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, or targets such newspaper, magazine or electronic content at an audience in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.”
IPSO has a remit to uphold and improve press standards by enforcing the Editors’ Code of Practice. Tabloids newspapers and their websites are particularly reliant on press agencies for much of their content.
Owner of Vienna-based CEN, Michael Leidig, said: “It looks as if IPSO membership is not a possibility for us as an agency, despite a daily news feed of material published regularly on the UK’s national media landscape.
“I believe it is a mistake to refuse professional content producers, agencies and journalists, the right to be regulated and to have the chance to defend their brand.
“CEN generates copy for a broad spectrum of publications, and we want to be able to take responsibility for what we write.
“In the age of fake news this is more important than ever before. Who decides what is fake? The reality is that all too often the tag of fake news is used to criticise an article not because of its content, but because of the publisher.
“We can publish one story in one national newspaper without a problem, it will be shared and discussed in the usual way, but the same story that appears on a different publication might end up attracting a dozen online allegations that it is fake simply because of the place where it was published.
“The fact that the same story would have appeared in several places but is only complained about in one place often underlines that there is clearly an agenda. Fake news is an easy allegation to make, and even if proven groundless it makes news desk’s nervous, and takes up a substantial amount of time dealing with the complaint itself for both the desk and the content provider.
“The polarisation between left and right leaning media makes the matter worse, because as soon as allegations that a given story from one side is fake gain enough traction, it is happily repeated and promoted by the other. They don’t even need to worry about whether it’s true, it’s enough to say that it’s a trending story that’s gone viral.
“Yes, publishers need to take responsibility for what they publish, but I believe in the case of professionally supplied third party content that should be limited to apologising on behalf of the third party content provider. This would be self-regulating because no newsdesk is going to take material when they constantly end up having to publish corrections.
“It would give content providers responsibility for their brand name, whether their agency name or individual by-line, and considerably reduce the attraction of attacking stories hoping to damage publisher when they are provided by a separate and registered agency or journalist.
“It would also give added weight to content provided by registered journalists and agencies that have a brand name to defend and are still attempting to produce quality independent news in a shrinking market.”
A spokesperson for IPSO said: “IPSO regulates over 2,500 newspapers and magazines, in print and online.
“Our regulations say we can only regulate an entity which publishes a printed newspaper or magazine and/or editorial content on electronic services in the UK.
“We welcome applications for new members and in the last six months, four publishers have joined IPSO. We look at the particular circumstances of each application carefully, before making a decision on membership. Discussions with CEN are ongoing.”