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May 21, 2014updated 22 May 2014 2:06pm

Lord Black: Guardian and Lebedev titles face choice between rigorous external regulation or none at all

By Dominic Ponsford

Newspaper industry fixer Lord Black has said that the Guardian and Indendent titles now face a clear choice as time runs out for the Press Complaints Commission.

Speaking at the London Press Club awards he said that those yet to sign up to the new Independent Press Standards Organisation face either signing up to a system of “rigorous self regulation” or opting out of external regulation altogether.

Lord Black is executive director of Telegraph Media Group and chairman of Pressbof, the publishers' body which funds the PCC. He is also one of the architects of IPSO and has been at the heart of negotiations between the press and politicians over the future of regulation.

The PCC is set to close within the next few weeks to be replaced by IPSO.

All national newspapers have signed up to IPSO’s new contract-based regulation system with the exception of Guardian News and Media, the FT (which has said it will regulate itself) and The Independent. The Evening Standard, which like The Independent is owned by the Lebedevs, has also yet to sign up to IPSO.

Black told the Stationers’ Hall audience: “Come what may the Press Complaints Commission, which has done such a brilliant job over 20 years, will cease its services in the near future and IPSO – with a clean slate – will start its work and at that point there will be a very clear choice for those who have yet to sign up between a rigorous independent system of self regulation and absolutely no external regulation or complaints mediation service for readers at all. “

He was damning of the Royal Charter-based press regulation system approved in a cross-party deal and dismissive of rival press regulator Impress.

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He said: “It is now seven months since the charter was sealed and more than 14 since its terms were dictated by an unrepresentative lobby group to a group of pliant politicians. But in all that time not a single publishing group has signed up to its terms. It seems to me unlikely that any will.

“In all that time the Government has been trying to find someone to chair its recognition panel, which is the instrument by which it will seek to impose punitive – almost certainly illegal – costs on the press. But no one has come forward and I doubt that anyone will.

"In all that time the phony rival regulator Impress has been looking for funding and members and it has found none, although it has – with the £27 it has raised from an appeal to the public – created a blog. In all that time the Government has been trying to ensure that the Royal Charter is legally sound.

"It has failed to do so. It has already been rejected by the Northern Ireland executive and it is impotent in Scotland where no exemplary damages regime exists. You will have to look hard to find anyone who supports this constitutional monstrosity that we as an industry must continue to challenge."

The London Press Club gave the prize for daily newspaper of the year to the Evening Standard.

Editor Sarah Sands said the paper illustrates three encouraging things about journalism:

“The first is we can find a new economic model. The second is you can be free and still be a quality newspaper. And the third is that however depressing the economic climate is the journalism just keeps breaking through.

"For that I have to thank on editorial the band of brothers that makes it the best place one could possibly work. There’s something about the mix of professionalism and merriment which is in the DNA of the Evening Standard."

The Sunday People's front-page picture of Nigella Lawson being grabbed around the throat by Charles Saatchi beat The Guardian's Edward Snowden revelations and The Mail on Sunday's "Crystal Meth Shame of Bank Chief" to the scoop of the year prize.

The other winners were:

  • Sunday newspaper of the year: The Mail on Sunday
  • Blog of the year: Guido Fawkes
  • Arts reviewer of the year: Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Times
  • Broadcast journalist of the year: Nick Ferrari
  • Edgar Wallace award: Ian Birrell, freelance
  • Business journalist of the year: Simon Neville of the Independent/Evening Standard.

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