Impress has become the first officially recognised UK press regulator after sealing approval from the government-funded Press Recognition Panel (PRP) today (25 October).
Most of Britain's national and regional newspaper and magazines have joined the regulator Ipso since it was set up in 2014, but press reform campaigners have slammed the body for its lack of independence, claiming it is controlled by the very newspapers it regulates.
Impress was established in the same year by Jonathan Heawood as an alternative to Ipso. It has been bankrolled by author JK Rowling and former F1 owner Max Mosley, both of whom have been direct victims of press intrusion brought to head by the Leveson Inquiry in 2011. The PRP was set up in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry to ensure any future press regulator met certain standards.
It was recognised today that Impress met the 23 Royal Charter criteria by the eight-strong PRP team after a full day of deliberation, and two years of worth of campaigning.
As part of the deal, newspapers that refuse to sign up to the new regulator could have to pay the legal fees of libel complaints, even if the paper won the case. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley will have to decide whether to activate these regulations.
Publishers warned that the measures could force smaller publishers out of business and incur excessive costs for others to bear as it would have opened the door to anyone mounting a defamation case, safe in the knowledge that the paper would have to pay court costs even if they were cleared.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has welcomed the PRP’s decision to recognise another press regulator, an organisation that has similar mistrust for Ipso.
NUJ’s general secretary Michelle Stanistreet commented: “Our objection to IPSO has always been that it is an organisation that represents the interests of the proprietors and management of newspapers.
“The union has long-held policy on the need for independent regulation that involves journalists, as well as the industry and representatives of the public."