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Sunday, 24 January 2016

IMPRESS signs up obscure titles but could grab power

IN THIS POST: Peter Preston savages Impress' credentials and strategy; despite only signing up 4 micro-local titles they could bring about statutory powers that include draconian fees for newspapers whether they have signed up to Impress or not. You'll find further Impress resources at the bottom of this post. Read more on press regulation on the Media Guardian here.

Impress boast of their actually humble beginnings. Note the new domain: http://impress.press/
Peter Preston's weekly column is mostly on the Saville case, and is useful for highlighting the consequences of the incessant political pressure on the Beeb.

However, its the fiery, furious final two paragraphs that grabbed my attention, coming to a conclusion that hadn't occurred to me. Greenslade had reported that Impress was to announce its initial sign-ups, but when this proved not to be the IPSO refuseniks like The Guardian I switched off.
Preston flags up that despite the absurdity of Impress' starting slate, four micro-local titles, this could see the severe powers to fine newspapers, whether signed up or not, heavy amounts. In his own words:

What do the Port Talbot Magnet, theSouthport ReporterYour Harlow and Your Thurrock have in common? They’re four of the 12 tiny publications – some online, some fortnightly, some free – who’ve signed up to be regulated by Impress (sole rival to Ipso) as it seeks official blessing from the Press Recognition Panel. Your assorted Magnets from Essex to Wales have never caused any regulation problems, of course: nor will they be able to pay much over £50 a throw in dues to keep Impress going – or to reassure the nation that the £3m of public money already spent on recognising the barely recognisable is well spent.

No: the aim is perversely different. Get recognised somehow or other, and then the Royal Charter provisions may start to operate, escalating libel damages and costs for those hundreds of publishers – from the Mail to theGuardian – who’ve either joined Ipso or sat outside what the Guardian’s last editor called “a medieval nonsense”. Quite what this has to do with press freedom isn’t clear (especially with an indignant Max Mosley’s family trust putting up another £3m-plus to help Impress pay its bills). Quite how it will play when some outrageous libel bill piles legal nonsense on top of medieval flummery remains obscure, too. And quite what a government that clearly wants to leave well alone will do then is mystery plus enigma. But hey! Who cares about credibility or money sensibly spent when this bizarre game of pious punishment’s afoot?


Their 'about us' entry (link)

Is Preston accurate in his depiction of their starting sign-ups?
Press regulator Impress has named the first media organisations to sign up, including radical publisher New Internationalist and crowdfunded Scottish investigative journalism site the Ferret.
Impress, which was unveiled as a rival to the industry-backed Independent Press Standards Organisation in November 2013, has revealed the first 10 publishers it will regulate.
Walter Merricks, the chairman of Impress, said that it has also officially submitted an application to the Press Recognition Panel for recognition under the controversial royal charter.
The recognition process is expected to last at least four months.
While Ipso has been backed by the vast majority of the UK press industry – although not the Guardian, Independent and the Financial Times – Impress’s first backers are mainly small, independent publishers.
The list, which Impress says could soon be followed by “at least 30” more publishers, includes the Caerphilly Observer, a fortnightly free newspaper launched in 2013 that was born out of a hyper local website.

A drier account:
A would-be press regulator has confirmed it has the backing of a small number of local publishers in its bid to become the recognised watchdog for the industry.
Most of the regional and national press has recognised the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) as the industry regulator following the abolition of the old Press Complaints Commission.
However IPSO has made clear it has no intention of applying for recognition as a press regulator under the government’s Royal Charter, on the grounds that this would amount to state regulation of the press.
Now a rival regulator, Impress, has confirmed that it is seeking recognition under the Charter after winning the backing of a number of small publishing groups.
Its 13 members include a Scottish-based crowd-funded investigative website, The Ferret, hyperlocal online publishers such as the Caerphilly Observer, The Lincolnite, Your Harlow and Staffordshire-based A Little Bit of Stone,
The Press Recognition Panel confirmed that it had received the Impress application.
It said in an announcement on its website: “In order to be an approved regulator, Impress must satisfy the PRP that it meets all 29 of the recognition criteria in the Royal Charter.”

Excerpt from a longer article, which notes the press is likely to cover this in an antagonistic way:
You are unlikely to read about it about in the mainstream press, but this week saw a major step forward for genuinely independent press regulation in the UK. The new press regulator IMPRESS (Independent Monitor for the Press) has announced that it has not only signed up a dozen publishers but that it has submitted an application for formal recognition. This will now be assessed by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), the wholly independent body established by cross-party agreement.
The dozen founding members of IMPRESS include local newspapers, online hyperlocal sites, New Internationalist Magazine and investigative journalism outfits Byline and The Ferret. None of the big beasts of Fleet Street, but that was never expected at this stage. IMPRESS says it is in discussion with another 30 or so publishers.
Given the levels of misinformation about press regulation in most national newspapers, this story is worth a quick recap. In the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and other unsavoury Fleet Street practices which came to light, Lord Justice Leveson recommended a new framework for press self-regulation.
The industry, he said, should set up its own self-regulator, but within strict rules to ensure that it was wholly independent of both politicians and the industry. Among other things, it should incorporate a low-cost arbitration scheme, an easy and effective complaints mechanism, a whistleblowing service for journalists, and the ability to demand apologies and corrections from offending publications.
These criteria were incorporated into a Royal Charter which established the PRP, and will be used by the panel to assess any application for recognition. Publishers who belong to a recognised self-regulator will, under certain circumstances, be entitled to protection from heavy court costs or damages. IMPRESS is the first such self-regulator to apply for recognition.
Meanwhile, the country’s main newspaper publishers – with the exception of the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times – have set up their own regulator IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation), in defiance of both Leveson and parliament. But IPSO has made it clear that it has no intention of applying for recognition under the Royal Charter.

IMPRESS: Leveson-compliant

The brainchild of free-speech campaigner Jonathan Heawood, IMPRESS was designed to be Leveson-compliant. Its chairman, Walter Merricks – a former finance sector ombudsman – was appointed by an independent appointments board with no links to any political party after an open recruitment process.

The Indie's media coverage is worth a look
The former president of the FIA, Max Mosley,  is bankrolling an alternative press regulator, it has been revealed.
Impress, set up over a year ago, said on Wednesday it will accept donations of £3.8 million to cover the first four years of expenditure, which will come almost exclusively from The Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust.
Mr Mosley has campaigned for press reform since 2008 when he received £60,000 in damages from the News of the World, after the tabloid falsely accused him of taking part in a "Nazi orgy".
The regulator also revealed  it has applied for official recognition under the Royal Charter and has 13 publishers signed up as members. Currently, none of these are national titles.
In a lecture given at the London School of Economics on Wednesday, Walter Merricks, Impress' chair, admitted it was an “unusual self-regulator” due to its funding.
Most regulators are either funded publicly, (like the Food Standard Agency), or from fees from the bodies it regulates, (like the gambling Commission).  
Impress said, despite establishing itself using funding from donors, it would not “be beholden to anyone”.
The regulator said it would work in tandem with the Independent Press Regulation Trust, a charity which would act as “buffer” between any donor from which it receives funds, operating at “arm’s length” from the body.
The funding agreement Impress have in place with the Trust guarantees the regulator funding of £950,000 a year for at least four years.
Full article here.

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