PRP review should consider IMPRESS' fitness to regulate, says SoE
05 October 2017
An upcoming risk assessment by the Press Recognition Panel’s into the regulatory body IMPRESS should consider whether it is still fit to retain its licence, the Society of Editors has said.
In a letter to Susie Uppal, the Recognition Panel’s (PRP) Chief Executive, the Society outlined concerns that the findings of a recent internal review which concluded that board members had breached internal standards, had undermined public confidence in the regulator’s impartiality.
The review, published last week, found that three of its senior members had breached its duty to act impartially and not give an impression of bias against any particular newspaper. The review also found that Impress’s own chief executive, Jonathan Heawood, had breached its guidelines and should no longer be allowed to serve on one of its most important committees.
The Society said: “It is the opinion of the Society of Editors that IMPRESS’ ability to regulate independently and impartially may have been undermined by the seriousness of the breach of standards and, as such, the PRP’s review should look to ensure that the organisation is still fit to regulate. It is disappointing that concerns raised by the Society in 2016, as well as by the News Media Organisation in particular, that the conduct of board members of IMPRESS raised serious questions as to its perceived ability to be impartial and independent were widely ignored.”
The internal inquiry was launched by Impress after complaints that Mr Heawood and other board and committee members were promoting views on social media that were held by vocal critics of a number of national newspapers.
The publication of the review comes amid ongoing concerns by the Society of Editors and the News Media Association in particular, that the regulatory body’s reliance upon funding from vocal press critic Max Mosley already undermines its independence.
The Society added in the letter: “In addition to both the Society and other media organisation’s legitimate concerns in relation to the involvement of Max Mosley in funding IMPRESS, it is our conclusion that the breach of standards by the regulator’s own chief executive and board members leaves the Press Recognition Panel with no choice but to consider whether IMPRESS can inspire confidence that it has the capability to effectively, and fairly, regulate the press. I would hope that your assessment looks at this issue in detail, alongside the findings of the independent review, and considers whether the body is fit to retain its licence. “
Read the letter in full here.