Creating a Credible, Workable Standards Code

As the consultation for the Standards Code moves into its final few days, we spoke to Peter Feeney, the Press Ombudsman for Ireland, for his views on what makes a good code.

The IMPRESS Standards Code consultation has had significant input from the public, journalists and publishers, including IMPRESS’s member publishers. It is intended to be a practical working tool that enables journalists to do their jobs while at the same time it is intended to be easily understood by the public and enforceable through regulation.

The Irish Press Ombudsman’s office was established in 2008. The current Press Ombudsman is Peter Feeney. We asked him for his thoughts on what makes an effective code. He said: “First and foremost it is imperative that those journalists who are going to use the code feel that they have had a full say in drawing it up. This gives them a sense of ownership of it and they can feel comfortable that it is not being imposed on them. The other important aspect is that the code should set out the broad general principles to which journalists are expected to conform, rather than trying to cover too many specifics. Then it is the responsibility of the press to use their own judgement and experience to ensure that their reporting abides by the code.”

Feeney believes that an independent body recognised by statute is central to the Irish Press Council’s standing and validation as a regulator. He said: “While this, quite rightly, stops short of Government control it does give us a standing and credibility as a non-statutory regulatory function which assists us in staying above the fray, for example we have qualified privilege which means we cannot be sued for our decisions.”

Overall Feeney feels that a press regulator has to walk the narrow path between maintaining confidence from the press that they will get a fair hearing while striving hard to serve the public and provide a reasonable and impartial public service. 

We would like to thank everyone who has submitted their views and comments to the IMPRESS Standards Code. There is still time to take part. The consultation will close at 5pm on Thursday 29th September after which the new Code will be finalised and published with explanatory guidelines by the IMPRESS board.