A first meeting of any group of people is often nerve-wracking. Will they get on? Will they speak to each other? Will the meeting achieve its aims?
I need not have worried about how IPSO’s first Readers’ Advisory Panel would work. From the outset we had full and vibrant discussion about press standards and public expectations, and it’s clear that the Panel will make a valuable contribution to IPSO’s work.
We launched the panel to offer advice from the perspective of readers and citizens both on our work and on wider industry issues. The Readers’ Advisory Panel will provide comment to IPSO on any issues on which it is consulting or developing guidance, including the regular review of the Editors’ Code of Practice; provide their view to any external review or audit of IPSO; and act as a focal point for the public or representative groups to feed back their experiences of IPSO.
The six readers panellists are Connie Henry, a former senior private sector manager; Dr Kate Sang, an academic; Michael Curran, who works in PR; Nabila Zulfiqar, a solicitor with experience of regulation and governance; Samantha McFarlane, a social media manager and charity trustee; and Tom Rowland, a campaigner and former journalist.
The panel started by sharing how they engage with newspapers and magazines and the impact that accessing content electronically has on the diversity of stories the panel might read. Conversation moved on to talk about IPSO, comparing its functions with those of other regulators and looking at its history and background. The panel then talked about the issues which arise when researching or writing stories, such as the need to protect journalists’ sources, appropriate times to photograph an individual and when it might be considered intrusion, as well as differing perceptions of inaccuracy depending on how close an individual is to a story.
The panel discussed some of the challenges facing IPSO, including low levels of public awareness of IPSO (although this was improving) as well as whether the public understand IPSO’s power and remit. It was recognised that IPSO does not, unlike Ofcom, regulate for taste and decency. However, the panel thought that might not be well understood by the public or complainants, who would expect media regulators to regulate in a similar way.
IPSO has also set up a Journalists’ Advisory Panel to offer advice from the perspective of journalists, this panel meets for the first time in early 2017. I think that both panels will make an important contribution to our work as a regulator, by ensuring that we hear the voices and perspectives of both readers and journalists.