Media making progress on complaints and corrections, Sheffield study finds
The UK media has got better at handling complaints and correcting inaccuracies under the regulation of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), according to a study conducted by a University of Sheffield research centre.
A team based at Sheffield's Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) compared hundreds of corrections from 2011 and 2016 – before and after IPSO replaced the old Press Complaints Commission.
They found that since IPSO's establishment, almost half of the publications in the sample (8 out 17) have run corrections in an equally or more prominent position, and almost a third (5 out of 17) have clearly increased their speed of publication of corrections.
Dedicated corrections columns have been introduced by more newspapers and given more prominent positions. And the titles surveyed now publish clear instructions to readers on how to make a complaint.
As well as this quantitative aspect of its research, the CFOM team also interviewed newspaper compliance staff to gather qualitative information about attitudes to, and resourcing for, the handling of complaints.
Principal investigator Dr Irini Katsirea, Reader in International Media Law at Sheffield, hailed the findings as an improvement but warned that the media industry would need to go further in preventing breaches of the Editors' Code of Practice.
She said: "This timely CFOM study on the role of press self-regulation in the UK shows that there has been an increase in transparency and professionalisation of complaints handling processes under IPSO.
This timely CFOM study on the role of press self-regulation in the UK shows that there has been an increase in transparency and professionalisation of complaints handling processes under IPSO
Dr Irini Katsirea
Centre for Freedom of the Media
"However, more still needs to be done so that these procedural improvements translate into continuous high-quality, prompt and prominent corrections that act as a deterrent to future breaches of the Code."
Irini's colleagues on the project were Dr Chrysi Dagoula of the University of Groningen and Professor Jackie Harrison – head of Journalism Studies at Sheffield and chair of CFOM. Jackie co-founded CFOM in 2008 and serves as UNESCO Chair on Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity.
IPSO was introduced in 2014 after the Leveson inquiry into press standards called for the establishment of a new, more independent body for media regulation after the News International phone hacking scandal. Its remit covers more than 1,000 publications including most of the UK's daily newspapers.
The organisation will use CFOM's findings to issue new, stronger guidance to editors and journalists and to guide its monitoring processes – with a view to achieving the further improvement called for by Irini.
Based in Sheffield's Department of Journalism Studies, CFOM is an interdisciplinary research centre with global outreach on issues of media freedom, independence and plurality. The centre aims to inform and advise governments, policymakers and stakeholders internationally on countering threats to media freedom, improve media law, policy and practice, and raise standards of journalism safety worldwide.
Another research project led from the Department of Journalism Studies – Defining Freedom of the Press – is comparing media regulation across 13 European countries, with potential benefits for several interest groups in the UK.
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