The Times: IMPRESS Members Consider Exit Following Mosley Allegations

IMPRESS members are considering pulling out of the state-sponsored regulator following widely reported allegations about Max Mosley, The Times reported this morning

The Times reported that a number of IMPRESS members were considering “cutting ties” with the regulator following widely publicised allegations that Mr Mosley had published a “racist leaflet” in 1961, and his strong denial of the suggestion that he had lied to the High Court about its existence.

IMPRESS has a long-term agreement with the Independent Press Regulation Trust for £3.8m in funding over the next four years. The trust’s funding has been guaranteed by the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust. 

According to the Press Recognition Panel’s report in which it announced its decision to recognise IMPRESS, there was one direct donation of £40,000 by Max Mosley to IMPRESS in July 2015.   

The Labour Party said this week that it would no longer accept donations from Mr Mosley but IMPRESS declined to discuss its funding arrangements when asked by The Times, the newspaper reported.

Martin Booth, the editor of Bristol 24/7, told the paper: “The discovery of the electoral material from 1961 and Mosley’s subsequent denial under oath of its existence make me uncomfortable to belong to the regulatory body that he bankrolls. Mosley’s involvement with Impress is vague and I am considering whether Bristol 24/7 should continue being a member.” Other publishers were understood to be considering their options, the paper added.

The Caerphilly Observer recently became a member of IPSO after leaving IMPRESS last year citing a range of concerns about the state-backed regulator including its lack of transparency, its inability to deal with major news publishers, and its source of funding.

Early last year, Benjamin Cohen, founder and chief executive of PinkNews, accused IMPRESS of “trying to frighten me into signing up by citing the threat of exemplary damages and legal costs if we didn’t.”

Analysis of IMPRESS membership by the News Media Association in January has estimated that just half of IMPRESS member titles would classify as “relevant publishers” under the Royal Charter definition – meaning that the rest would be unaffected by Section 40 costs sanctions and therefore have no need of the protection offered by a recognised regulator.

A total of 15 titles have left IMPRESS or closed, including websites that appear dormant or to have been suspended, since IMPRESS first published a list of members in January 2016, NMA analysis has found.  Out of the 13 titles first announced as members by IMPRESS in January 2016, four are no longer listed as members and appear to have left the regulator. 

In addition to objections to IMPRESS’ funding arrangements, the NMA has also raised repeated concerns about the views of its senior IMPRESS staff about certain sections of the press industry.  

An internal review by the regulator published in September last year found that chief executive Jonathan Heawood had breached internal standards against bringing the organisation into disrepute and this raised “serious issues” about IMPRESS’ compliance with the Royal Charter. 

The report said: “We have found some breaches of IMPRESS’ internal standards by a minority of two of the Board. These breaches raise serious issues regarding compliance with Criterion 23. They have largely occurred as a result of the inappropriate sharing of content on Twitter which criticised The Sun, Daily Mail and News UK and was disrespectful towards particular named journalists.”

Jonathan Heawood told the PRP that he received an introduction to Max Mosley through Hacked Off. In its recognition decision report, the PRP said: “It is evident that Max Mosley has strong views on press regulation. Indeed, it is no doubt the existence of those views that led to Mr Mosley offering support to IMPRESS.”