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September 30, 2015

IPSO ‘not for us’ says former Independent editor Blackhurst – but rival regulator also fails to impress

By Dominic Ponsford

Former Independent editor Chris Blackhurst has said that membership of the Independent Press Standards Organisation is “not for us, guv”.

Blackhurst, who left his editor position in 2013, was closely involved in discussions about setting up a new system of press regulation in the wake of the hacking scandal.

Just over a year after the launch of IPSO, the Independent and Standard titles, Guardian News and Media and the Financial Times are the only national newspapers not to have joined it.

They have also yet to sign up to rival press regulator Impress, which is expected to apply for recognition from the Royal Charter-backed Press Recognition Panel imminently.

The three national newspaper publishers instead currently regulate themselves.

Speaking at the Protecting the Media conference in London, Blackhurst said: "We’ve not been handicapped in any way by not being part of IPSO.

"It is almost part of our branding that we’ve not joined up with the others.

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"We are more aligned with The Guardian and the FT, we are not at the tabloid end of journalism… we therefore feel it’s not for us, guv.

“We have doubts about IPSO because IPSO bears close resemblance what was there before. The issue with what was there before as we never really got a look in. The broadsheet end of the market felt excluded with the PCC.

“If you look at IPSO it’s the same characters and the same groups.”

But Blackhurst was also critical of rival press regulator Impress, which has yet to reveal any members.

He said: “We’ve not joined Impress because Impress did not impress. We are still waiting to see whether any newspaper that we can relate to will join Impress.

“There’s always a suspicion that Impress has a relationship with Hacked Off.”

Blackhurst  said there was a “looming deadline” in November around issues of press regulation. This is the point at which Impress may get official recognition, thereby triggering elements of the Crime and Courts Act.

Once Impress has official recognition, publishers who are not members of it face the risk of exemplary damages and paying both sides costs even if they win privacy and libel cases.

Blackhurst said: “Even though the paper’s owned by wealthy Russians, the way it works it would be crippling if we were hit with exemplary damages. I expect that the exemplary damages issue will go all the way to Strasbourg. Somebody’s going to be clobbered by exemplary damages."

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