IMPRESS is growing fast, with publishers reaching 4.5 million monthly readers

As IMPRESS consolidates its position, with its Standards Code now in force and more publishers joining, it is seeking to expand its board by recruiting up to two new directors with backgrounds in journalism and the news industry. It has also made a number of changes to strengthen its internal governance arrangements.

Over the past half year, an average of 5 new publishers a month have applied to join IMPRESS and as at 26th September 2017 IMPRESS now regulates 41 publishers (13 a year ago) which are collectively responsible for 70 publication titles (24 a year ago). The estimated 4.5 million monthly readers of these publications have the reassurance that these publishers are held to high standards by the first ever UK press regulator to be externally approved as independent and effective. They have the protections available under the IMPRESS complaints service in which case their complaint will be judged against the new IMPRESS Standards Code, developed after public consultation. In addition, they have free access to the unique IMPRESS arbitration service if they believe they have been harmed as a result of the actions of an IMPRESS publisher. Members of the public have no access to similar free services to achieve justice in respect of non-IMPRESS publications, and they have to consider costly and risky court action.

IMPRESS publishers have the benefit of low-cost membership. They are entitled to carry the ‘Trust in Journalism’ mark in their publications, and they also benefit from the arbitration scheme – free for small publishers – to resolve any claim for defamation or invasion of privacy.

IMPRESS members can also benefit from low-cost, flexible and comprehensive professional indemnity insurance cover which is specifically designed for media companies operating within the IMPRESS regulatory scheme. It offers very competitive rates because of the reduced liability to insurers of publishers participating in the IMPRESS regulatory scheme.

After the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) decided in October 2016 that IMPRESS met all the standards necessary to be approved, the News Media Association (NMA) launched a legal action against the PRP, alleging that IMPRESS did not meet the required standards. The NMA has admitted that its members have no intention of meeting the standards that it accuses IMPRESS of failing to comply with. This legal action has not slowed the number of publishers seeking to join IMPRESS.

Around the same time as it launched the legal challenge, the NMA raised concerns with the PRP about the impartiality of a number of IMPRESS representatives. The issues raised were thoroughly investigated by a panel of IMPRESS board members. Although finding some breaches of internal standards, the panel found that no IMPRESS decision had been affected by bias or any real possibility of it, not least because the publishers in question had not expressed any interest in becoming members of IMPRESS. The panel report containing detailed findings and recommendations was provided to the PRP. Following the recommendations, a new Code of Conduct for IMPRESS representatives was prepared which was the subject of public consultation and has now been adopted. A register of board members’ interests is now on the website.

Commenting on IMPRESS’s developments, Walter Merricks CBE, said: “Since our launch two years ago, IMPRESS has made great strides. Our Standards Code is now well embedded and more and more publishers are now appreciating the benefits we can offer them.”

Notes for editors

1. Details about the recruitment process for appointment of board members can be found on the IMPRESS website here

2. The IMPRESS Standards Code came into force on 24 July 2017 and can be found on the IMPRESS website here

3. Details of the IMPRESS complaints service can be found on the IMPRESS website here

4. The IMPRESS arbitration service can be accessed here

5. Under the professional indemnity insurance available to IMPRESS members, annual premiums start at just over £200 for cover of £100,000. Cover of up to £100m is available if needed. Further details can be found here

6. CO/140/2017 The Queen on the application of News Media Association (claimant) and Press Recognition Panel (defendant) and IMPRESS (interested party). This judicial review action was heard in the High Court before Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Popplewell on 28 and 29 June 2017. Lord Pannick QC appeared for the NMA, Ben Jaffey QC for the PRP, and Tom Hickman for IMPRESS. Judgment was reserved and is awaited.

7. Addressing Concerns about IMPRESS’s Impartiality”, the report of the review panel is available here

8. The register of board members interests can be accessed here

9. The formal Annual Report of IMPRESS will be published in October.