News

IMPRESS ends its regulation of Unity News Network with immediate effect

25 October 2022.

IMPRESS has today ended its regulatory scheme agreement with Unity News Network (UNN) after the news website failed to comply with an investigation which subsequently found systemic breaches of the accuracy clause of the IMPRESS Standards Code. IMPRESS launched an investigation on its own initiative into concerns about the accuracy of news content covering the covid vaccine and the war in Ukraine after it was brought to IMPRESS’s attention that former Southampton footballer and TV pundit Matt Le Tissier reposted a tweet from UNN’s official Twitter account.  

IMPRESS Chair Richard Ayre said:

“Being regulated by IMPRESS means adhering to high standards of accuracy and transparency. Publishers who are unwilling or unable to meet those standards and to comply with procedures designed to uphold those standards should not benefit from belonging to a public interest regulator.” 


Background

IMPRESS undertook a general assessment of news content published by Unity News Network (UNN) in April and May 2022, after it became aware of a post published from UNN’s official Twitter account about the Bucha massacre in Ukraine that was shared by former Southampton footballer Matt Le Tissier to a wider audience. A regulatory committee was convened to review the material and concluded that there was a case to answer in respect of 12 separate items of content that engaged the accuracy clause of the Standards Code. This led to IMPRESS launching an investigation on its own initiative into 12 items covering the Covid-19 vaccine and the war in Ukraine. On being notified of the investigation, the publisher challenged IMPRESS’s authority to initiate an investigation, refused to respond to questions put to it on multiple occasions and gave notice of its intention to resign its IMPRESS membership.     

In September 2022 an IMPRESS regulatory committee convened to review the 12 items of content. The Committee found that 10 of those items breached the accuracy clause of the Standards Code. The Code does not create an absolute duty to publish only incontrovertibly true facts. Instead, it means that publishers must take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to verify the truth of the information presented. Furthermore, IMPRESS’s members are in a fundamentally different position from broadcasters such as the BBC: publishers are free to present their own opinions on the issues of the day and they are not required to engage in ‘balanced’ or ‘impartial’ reporting. Even so, the Code requires members to ensure the information underpinning the expression of their opinions and their ‘take’ on a given story is accurate. The Committee considered that the cumulative effect of all these individual breaches over a sustained period indicated a systemic breach of the IMPRESS Standards Code. The Committee further decided that by refusing to cooperate with the investigation the Publisher had failed to adhere to its contractual obligations to IMPRESS. The Committee therefore ruled that Unity News Network’s regulatory scheme agreement with IMPRESS should be ended without notice.

A summary of the findings of the investigation is available here.


About IMPRESS

IMPRESS is an approved regulator under the post-Leveson Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press. This is a non-statutory scheme of self-regulation that is underwritten by contract which requires a publisher to adhere to a set of best practice standards and rules in exchange for benefiting from a ‘trust mark’, legal protections and other regulatory services. There is no legal requirement for newspapers, magazines or news sites to be members of a press regulator. Legal measures to incentivise membership of an approved self-regulatory body of the press are included in Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.  Section 40 has not been enacted by Government.

In addition to investigating complaints made by members of the public, IMPRESS has powers to initiate independent investigations into any of the publications it regulates, through a fair and impartial process as required under the system of approved regulation. Further, IMPRESS has powers to assess evidence of serious or systemic breaches of its Standards Code.

More information about our initiated investigations process can be found here. Past investigation decisions are available to read at https://www.impress.press/regulation/impress-initiated-investigations.html

Information on how to raise a complaint to IMPRESS is available on: https://www.impress.press/complaints 

For further questions, please contact info@impressreg.org.uk