2021 in Review: A message from our CEO, Ed Procter

Ed Procter, CEO of IMPRESS, reflects on the key milestones of 2021, including celebrating five years of approved regulation, the continued work to inform the Online Safety Bill and what's in store for 2022.

As the year draws to a close and we wind down for the holiday period, I want to reflect on a year of growth and change at IMPRESS and what lies ahead for us in 2022.

2021 was a landmark year for those connected with IMPRESS and interested in media standards and ethics more widely. It was the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Leveson Inquiry into press misconduct and the fifth anniversary of IMPRESS becoming the first and only regulator to be approved in law under the Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press.  During the year a steady stream of increasingly diverse publishers have signed up to IMPRESS’s Royal Charter approved regulation scheme, including titles such as gal-dem, Declassified, Bywire News and the Manchester Meteor.

We’ve worked hard during the year to demonstrate our public interest credentials in everything we do. In a year when concerns about online safety, discrimination and misinformation have continued to top the media agenda, we’ve led the way in promoting higher standards of journalism and higher standards of regulation.  I strongly believe that you can’t have one without the other.

I very much enjoyed participating in many of the workshops we held to inform the comprehensive review of the IMPRESS Standards Code that took place this year and will continue into 2022.  Sessions centered on salient media standards issues including discrimination, journalism online and the rights and protections of young people in the media.   We plan to meet with regulated publishers to give them a preview of our updated Standards Code, before embarking on a public consultation on the revised Code and Guidance in late February next year.

The impact of the Online Safety Bill on journalism and its relationship with social media platforms has grown in importance as the year has progressed. As part of our engagement on this issue, back in November IMPRESS’ Head of Regulation Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana provided clear and compelling evidence to the all-party DCMS committee scrutinizing the Bill.  Local and national publishers have contacted us to raise concerns about Facebook and Twitter interfering in the content of well-regulated journalism with no reference to established systems of press regulation. We hope the provisions of the final bill will take account of existing legal definitions of journalism and will respect well established systems of self-regulation of the press.

It’s been an incredibly busy and demanding year in which we’ve investigated more complex complaints, including two investigations on our own initiative into systematic discrimination concerns. I would like to thank the IMPRESS Board and Committees for their expertise and support and especially my growing staff team for their hard-work and the resilience they have shown as IMPRESS continues to expand and succeed.

Early in 2022, the Appointment Panel will nominate a new Chair of IMPRESS, who must be independent of politics and the press industry, to succeed Walter Merricks CBE, who completes his second and final term of appointment in March. We have all enjoyed working with Walter and have learned so much from him. He has given IMPRESS calm and authoritative leadership during our foundation years, and we look forward to working with a new Chair to build on the strong platform that Walter has helped to create.

I’d like to close my end of year review by thanking the many and growing number of publishers who have trusted IMPRESS to regulate their journalism and to the wider community of stakeholders who have supported our mission to raise journalism standards and to build trust between the public and news publishers.

I wish you all a peaceful and healthy holiday season and look forward to working with you again in 2022.

Ed Procter

Chief Executive Officer