Our initial running costs at IMPRESS are almost £1m per year. These will rise as our activities expand. Our long-term business plan shows how we will move towards a diverse business model with income from a range of activities.
Research and development for IMPRESS was carried out by the IMPRESS Project, a separate company, which was supported by grants and donations from many sources. Individual members of the public contributed to a crowdfunding campaign and the IMPRESS Project was also supported by trusts and foundations including the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust and the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust. The IMPRESS Project also received generous donations from private individuals such as JK Rowling and David Sainsbury.
As Walter Merricks CBE, Chair of IMPRESS, said in a public speech at the LSE on 20 January 2016, ‘we are not and never will be beholden to anyone, and we can never be in a position where our funding could be removed if we offended a funder.’
Therefore, we welcomed the establishment of the Independent Press Regulation Trust (IPRT), a registered charity, which exists to promote high standards of journalism. The IPRT is able to accept donations from anyone who wishes to support independent press regulation, and it can award grants to any organisation which shares this charitable purpose.
In 2015, IMPRESS entered into an agreement with the IPRT for £3.8m in funding over a four-year period. In 2018, this was replaced with a new agreement with the IPRT for an additional funding of £2.85m until 2022. The IPRT’s funding has been guaranteed by the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust. IMPRESS also receives funding from annual regulatory fees paid by a growing number of regulated publishers and is in the process of applying for funding from a diverse range of other third party sources to ensure that it develops a sustainable business model.
In April 2019, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) awarded a grant of £21,000 to IMPRESS for the the creation of an Independent Publishers Taskforce. The grant is to fund the research and development phase of the project over a period of six months.
In order to safeguard IMPRESS’s regulatory independence, it is crucial to put a firewall in place between IMPRESS and any donors. The IPRT grant can only be withdrawn in exceptional circumstances (for instance, if IMPRESS goes bankrupt) and there is no capacity for any donor to exert influence on IMPRESS. We believe that these arrangements are the best way to ensure that we are capable of fulfilling our obligations to the public, whilst protecting our independence.
In the words of the Charity Tribunal: ‘If [an independent] regulator cannot be established by the Government for constitutional reasons and ought not to be established by the industry itself for reasons of propriety and public confidence, then the charity sector is uniquely placed to be able to offer both the mechanism and the means by which a benefit to the community as a whole can be achieved.’
IMPRESS's funding arrangements have been reviewed by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) according to the Royal Charter criteria in 2016 prior to recognising IMPRESS as an approved regulator in October 2016. These arrangemetns were subject to the PRP's cyclical review of IMPRESS's status in Novembers 2018, and subject to an open call for information.
In March 2019, the PRP confirmed that IMPRESS continued to meet each of the recognition criteria stated in the Royal Charter. Being recognised according to these criteria essentially means that IMPRESS is ‘independent of the print and online publishers it regulates, is appropriately funded, and has systems in place to protect the public.’ Read more information about IMPRESS' confirmed status.
The Royal Charter requires the PRP to review approved regulators to ensure they continue to meet the Charter’s recognition criteria. A cyclical review must be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable two years after a regulator has been recognised and three yearly thereafter. Being recognised according to these criteria essentially means that IMPRESS is “independent of the print and online publishers it regulates, and is appropriately funded.”