IPSO set to exempt overseas content on Mail Online and other member websites from complying with Editors' Code

Global digital publishers will not be subject to UK press regulation on stories without clear relevance to the UK under new rules agreed by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

The plans are an attempt to tackle the issue of “global jurisdiction” – whether content produced by a UK digital newsbrand’s foreign bureaux for a global audience still falls under UK press regulation.

IPSO chief executive Matt Tee outlined the proposals at the Protecting the Media law conference in London today.

Mail Online, which is an IPSO member, has already complained that stories written by journalists in its US hub and aimed at international audiences should not fall under the Editors’ Code of Practice.

IPSO had previously consulted on exempting overseas content from its rules. Today Tee confirmed that it has finalised the criteria to determine whether content falls under its remit or not.

The public consultation on changing the rules closed on 2 October. IPSO has yet to publish its formal response.

But, this still needs to be signed off by the Regulatory Funding Company which collects funding for the regulator from publishers prior to being put into action.

Under the proposals, content published in, say, the US by Mail Online would fall under the regulator’s remit if:

  • It concerned coverage of events occurring within the UK
  • It principally concerned a UK national or resident
  • It was based on material that has been published in a UK print title.

Tee said the proposal was built around two premises. “At the point of publication, an editor should know if a story falls under the code and a reader should know fairly intuitively if they should complain to a UK press regulator about it.”

He added that in reviewing the issue of global jurisdiction, the solution proposed was “the least worst answer”, but added: “I think it does work and is an appropriate way to approach it.”

He said while IPSO had been formulating the new guidance the growth of digital publishers in the UK was such that “if we hope to expand our membership to include them, doing this piece of work would be helpful in terms of saying to them which of their content would be regulated by IPSO”.

Tee also revealed that IPSO’s arbitration pilot scheme had yet to be used by publishers after being launched in August 2016 and that it would only run for a further year, although he said if it was “useful” to members it would be kept.

He said local newspapers had not used the scheme because they were often able to settle civil litigation cases out of court for less than the cost of using it.

“If you’re a local publisher and you are pretty confident you could have settled those cases for under £3,000, why join an arbitration scheme that will cost you more than that? It’s really not attractive to the local press,” he said.

Tee also revealed that the number of complaints to IPSO continues to rise, including the number of complaints that it was moved to investigate. This year it is likely to receive more than 25,000 complaints, up from 14,445 in 2015 (which was up 3,000 on the year before).

Of the 2015 total, nearly 11,000 “fell at the first hurdle”, Tee said.  About 4,000 concerned issues not covered by the Editors’ Code and 500 were about publications not signed up to IPSO.

Tee said about 550 were actually investigated and either resolved or adjudicated by the regulator.