I’ve written before about the toothless press regulator IPSO, which was set up by the press specifically for the purpose of not regulating the press. To take just one recent example, IPSO found that when The Times makes up quotes, doing so doesn’t breach the rules on accuracy.
The ruling was on a story about transgender people, who have been subjected to an astonishing hate campaign for some time now. Newspapers have become adept at sticking to the letter of the rules rather than the spirit: all the rules on discrimination and demonisation apply to individuals, not to groups. So if a paper were to publish a column claiming that trans person X is a predator, that’s against the rules (as well as defamatory). If the column claims that all trans people are predators, that’s fine.
In other words, it’s not okay to incite hatred against one person. But it’s fine if you want to do it against an entire minority group.
The Hacked Off campaign is attempting to highlight this in its latest report, “The denigration, abuse and misrepresentation of the movement for transgender equality in the press”. It focuses on two dozen high profile and often very abusive articles that appeared in the mainstream press in recent months. As Hacked Off put it on Twitter: “Some newspapers have resorted to distortions, inaccuracies and explicit transphobic abuse.” Over this period, UK hate crimes against trans people have increased by 81%.
The problem is specific to newspapers. We don’t have endless abuse of trans people on TV because Ofcom regulates broadcast media. There’s no such regulation for print.
Despite the 2013 Cameron Government legislating for an independent system of media regulation, the current Government have not brought it into
force. This has left one independent regulator operational – but membership is entirely optional. As a result, none of the major websites or newspapers have signed up.
Instead, most publishers are members of IPSO, which is a newspaper association and complaints-handler under the control of newspaper executives. I
In other words, the people being asked to decide whether content breaks the rules are the people who publish the content that breaks the rules.
I used to be against press regulation, because many journalists are fine people who do important work. But some of the biggest publishers in the country have turned their platforms into bully pulpits, repeatedly, mendaciously publishing malicious content designed to hurt the most vulnerable people in our society: not just trans people but minorities of all kinds. We’ve seen exactly the same maliciousness directed at muslim people, for example, and the same rubber-stamping by IPSO.
IPSO is not fit for purpose and sectors of the UK press are out of control. What they do is not journalism, and it does not deserve protection.
There’s a petition demanding change here. Please sign it. Every name helps.