IPSO Blog: Birmingham talks press regulation at IPSO’s first Roadshow

Last night, IPSO held our first Roadshow meeting. The venue was Birmingham and the idea was to give members of the public, local Councillors, faith groups, students and frankly anyone who reads newspapers, magazines or online content a chance to talk about press regulation in the UK.

That might not sound like your idea of a cracking night out and it’s fair to say that we didn’t attract the numbers that saw Aston Villa play Brentford a mile or so away but the feedback I’ve had from the 50 people that came to listen, question and engage was that it was a really interesting evening. Some of them even went as far as to tweet as much! 

The event was a Town Hall style meeting and was brilliantly chaired by Adrian Goldberg, host of the BBC West Midlands breakfast show. IPSO Chairman Sir Alan Moses gave a short talk on IPSO’s first two years in operation, followed by a panel of expert speakers who brought a first-hand knowledge of the regional press. First up was Keith Harrison, the Editor of the Express and Star, followed by Dr Rachel Matthews, Principal Lecturer in journalism at Coventry University. Completing the panel was Marc Reeves, the Editor of the Birmingham Mail. 

I calculated that there was more than 50 years’ experience of journalism on show and the insight that gave to the meeting was priceless, in particular regarding the difficult decisions editors make every day over some stories and the impact they could have in their communities. Tough calls, made in real time without the benefit of hindsight. 

The hour or so of audience questions covered a huge range of issues, including: 

  • the role local media plays in informing the communities they serve 
  • possible changes to the Editors’ Code of Practice 
  • the fact that local papers are trusted more than nationals 
  • grassroots campaigning that can lead to attitudinal change in the media 
  • the portrayal of migrants and refugees by the national press, including an interesting discussing with Citizens UK Birmingham 
  • how online content will change the industry 
  • IPSO’s plans for the future
  • what practical measures can be taken to ensure negative stories don’t overwhelm the good news stories 
  • cost-shifting, Section 40 of the Crime and courts Act and the Press Recognition Panel. 

The final topics in the above list were raised by Hacked Off in the form of their articulate and able Policy Manager. Sir Alan is always grateful for a thoughtful and considerate approach to engagement and appreciate the opportunity to hear from our critics. 

As someone who has appeared on such panels over the years debating subjects as varied as hunting with dogs, the marketing of infant formula and domestic air taxation, trust me – the experts can make or break such an event. Fortunately, our guest speakers were uniformly excellent and brought a level of experience and insight that illuminated the evening. 

Both editors pointed out the contrast between IPSO and predecessor bodies and agreed IPSO is much more than a complaints handler and that our extra work around, for example, standards and guidance is invaluable to their staff. 

For the IPSO staff who were present, we took a lot of encouragement from the fact that there is willingness among civil society to discuss the work we do to protect those who feel wronged by the press and uphold professional standards in the UK press. It was also striking that the argument over recognition and legitimacy has  clearly moved on. What was much more relevant for those in attendance was how well IPSO is doing and how we can improve. 

We met some great people and will be following up to arrange meetings in the next few days. We’ll be having more of these meetings around the country in the coming months and if last night’s first attempt was anything to go by, the conversation will be great. 


Originally published 15 September 2016.