media & PR

Brooks Newmark set to leave an important legacy

Newspapers

It looks like Brooks Newmark, the Conservative minister who quit after he was drawn into sending an explicit personal photo after being sent a revealing photo himself, will be remembered for something other than his paisley pyjamas: press regulation.

What form of newspaper regulation there will be in Britain to replace the discredited Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is still very much unsettled, with rival schemes being pushed on all sides. Which makes this very significant:

Mark Pritchard, one of the MPs contacted by a Sunday Mirror reporter posing as a woman interested in sex, is to make a formal complaint to the UK newspaper regulator Ipso.

It will be a test case for the independence and effectiveness of the new regulator set up by some newspapers in the wake of the failure of its predecessor to respond to allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World…

The Sunday Mirror is facing accusations of entrapment over a sting on the minister for civil society after it emerged he was one of several MPs contacted by a male freelance reporter posing as a young female Conservative supporter on social media…

Ipso’s editors’ code of practice states: “Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”

Many, myself included, have been very sceptical about whether the newspaper industry’s own preferred solution will be any more meaningful than the PCC was. Perhaps the way IPSO handles this will counter that scepticism – but likewise if IPSO turns out to be a soft touch for the press, especially in a case involving Conservative MPs (who are more sceptical about press regulation than other parties), then IPSO’s first high profile case could well also be its death knell.

Either way, Brooks Newmark is set to have a lasting impact on the way our newspapers are regulated.