NMA: Why IMPRESS Should Not Be Granted Recognition As An Approved Press Regulator
In a 45-page response to the Press Recognition Panel’s call for information, the News Media Association explains that it would be irrational for the PRP to recognise IMPRESS as a regulator and that doing so would not help to create an effective regulator. It would, however, unfairly impose on the vast majority of UK publishers a system of penalties in circumstances that were never intended.
The submission sets out why the NMA considers that the IMPRESS application to the PRP fails to meet most of the key recognition criteria set down in the Royal Charter. It is unrepresentative of the press as a whole, it relies for its funding on a single wealthy donor Max Mosley, it has no editorial code of standards and it cannot be described as independent, credible or effective.
“For those reasons it would be unreasonable, irrational, unfair and unlawful for the PRP to confer recognition on IMPRESS,” says the NMA.
The Leveson Report made clear that a self-regulatory system would not be credible unless it attracted major publishers and the widest possible cross-section of the news media. It said: “I therefore recommend that a new system of regulation should not be considered sufficiently effective if it does not cover all significant news publishers.”
Under the terms of the Royal Charter, if the PRP does recognise IMPRESS, it will be obliged to inform Parliament in six months’ time that the system of regulation it has recognised does not cover all significant publishers. In fact, it covers no significant publishers, only a handful of hyperlocal publishers who may not even be relevant publishers as defined by the Royal Charter.
The IMPRESS arbitration scheme is neither fair nor inexpensive for publishers. It poses very little financial risk to claimants and is therefore likely to encourage anyone with an arguable civil claim to go down the arbitration route rather than the complaints route. This will lead to a proliferation of claims which will in turn impose a serious costs burden on publishers, particularly those with insufficient resources to meet the fees, legal costs and damages.
The NMA submission summarises why the news media industry believes IMPRESS does not merit recognition as an approved regulator:
- It is not representative of the press. No significant publisher has subscribed to it.
- It is not independent, being reliant for its funding on a rich donor.
- It is not credible, being neither supported nor funded by the press and lacking its own code of standards.
- Its lack of backing by the press and the absence of a code of standards mean it is incapable of being effective.
- It is not viable. Its funding can be withdrawn at any time and it has no realistic prospect of replacing that funding as there is no body of members waiting to join it.
- Its application lacks transparency. There is, for instance, no mention of the identity of the rich donor who is funding it.
- A failure to meet even one recognition criterion is fatal to IMPRESS’s application. IMPRESS has in fact failed to meet most of the key recognition criteria.
- Recognition of IMPRESS will not create an effective press regulator, but it will impose on 90 per cent of the newspaper and magazine industry who have joined IPSO, an established self-regulatory body, a system of penalties that was only ever intended to affect a recalcitrant minority. That would be a perverse outcome.
- Submission to the Press Recognition Panel by the NMA.
- The News Media Association is the voice of the UK news media industry representing around 1100 national, regional and local newspapers in all their forms, read by 42 million adults every week in print and online. Its members are the biggest investors in news and original journalism, accounting for two-thirds of the total spent on news provision in the UK.
- The Press Recognition Panel was set up by the Royal Charter in November 2014. It says its main role is to consider applications from press regulators who want to be recognised as being effective. The PRP announced in September 2015 that it was open to receive applications for recognition from regulators. It has to date received one application for recognition – from IMPRESS. The PRP’s call for information about IMPRESS’s application closed on 4 March. The PRP is now due to undertake a full assessment of the application. This will be followed by a meeting of the PRP Board, who will make the final decision on whether or not the application meets the requirements of the Charter.
- Granting recognition to a regulator would trigger the Crime and Courts Act sanctions which underpin the Royal Charter in the form of exemplary damages and potential awards of costs against publishers who are not members of a recognised regulator, whether or not they win cases brought against them.
- The vast majority of the UK press – some 2,600 national, regional and local newspaper and magazine titles in print and online – have already signed up to a regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, under five year binding contracts. IPSO has been up and running since September 2014 and does not seek recognition from the PRP.