Areas covered by the main codes of conduct are set out below:
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
Clause 2 (Privacy)*
Clause 3 (Harassment)*
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
Clause 5 (Reporting suicide)*
Clause 6 (Children)*
Clause 7 (Children in sex cases)*
Clause 8 (Hospitals)*
Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*
Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)*
Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault)
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
Clause 13 (Financial journalism)
Clause 14 (Confidential sources)
Clause 15 (Witness payments to criminal trials)
Clause 16 (Payment to criminals)*
The Public Interest (*)
Overlap – and differences
There is significant overlap between these two codes, and some key differences.
In general, both codes require stories to be accurate, and, where inaccuracies do appear, corrections must be published in a timely fashion and with “due prominence” (IPSO) – or “equal prominence” (Impress).
Both also counsel that the press must always distinguish clearly between statements of fact, conjecture and comment/opinion.
The press should not harass the subjects of stories. They should also show sensitivity where grief or shock is involved (IPSO). They should also show restraint and be extra sensitive where reporting on suicide, stories involving children, and victims of sexual assault.
They should be careful not to interfere in trials, or make payments to witnesses
Privacy should be respected, and (confidential) sources protected. Both codes recommend not using covert/clandestine means to obtain information.
Otherwise, Impress is alone in stipulating newspapers should “not fabricate information” – though arguably that is covered by IPSO stipulations on accuracy.
Both warn against conflict of interest – though only IPSO specifically warns that journalists should “not write stories leading to personal gain”.
Both codes encourage the press to avoid adverse reference to individual protected characteristics, including disability or mental health, gender identity, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
Impress includes a person’s age, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy, gender reassignment or any other “characteristic that makes that person vulnerable to discrimination”.
IPSO also mention colour.
Most significantly, Impress also includes a stipulation that publishers “must not incite hatred against any group on the basis of [these characteristics].”
Last up, both suggest that parts of their code may be over-ridden where it is in the public interest to do so. The IPSO code attempts to spell this out in a series of bullet points which include “raising or contributing to a matter of public debate” and “public interest in freedom of expression itself”.
Impress is somewhat more wordy (worthy?) in its approach, taking the opportunity to publish, on its code page, a fully-fledged debate on when a thing may – or may not – constitute the “public interest”.
There is no cost to lodging a complaint.
In addition, there is no formal hearing. Everything is done through correspondence, with IPSO acting like a PO Box. Research by Hacked Off suggests that from commencement to adjudication it takes approx. 6 months.
In terms of outcome, IPSO may require a correction, apology and adverse finding by IPSO.
If IPSO finds that a publisher has committed “serious and systematic” breaches of the code, it is meant to start an investigation review in that publication which could lead to a substantial fine. It is yet to do so.
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