Impress breach own standards
29 September 2017
The Society of Editors has questioned whether controversial press regulator Impress can continue after it admitted some of most senior board members had breached its standards.
An internal inquiry by the body, almost wholly funded by sports tycoon Max Mosley, has found that three of its senior members breached its duty to act impartially and not give the impression of bias against any particular newspaper.
As a result, Impress’s own Chief Executive Jonathan Heawood should be told he can no longer serve on one of its most important committees, the review body has ruled.
Society of Editors Deputy Executive Director Ian Murray reacted to the review’s findings by calling for there to be a review of whether Impress should be stripped on its licence to regulate.
“The public and the industry must have complete confidence that a regulator is impartial and does not hold strong opinions that, as the review body here says, could influence actions and decision when it comes to regulating papers.
“The majority of the industry have not signed up to Impress, in part because of these very concerns. Now Impress’s own internal review has confirmed that some of those at the very top of the organisation hold views not compatible with fair and balanced judgements.”
Impress was set up after the Leveson inquiry into newspaper practices to act as the regulator of press standards. The large majority of papers, however, chose to join the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), a voluntary organisation not backed by the government.
Impress attracted support from those critical of the newspaper industry.
The Press Recognition Panel (PRP), which has the power to approve new regulatory bodies and even strip them of their status as a regulator, says there has been a breach of one of its key principles.
The internal enquiry was launched after Mr Heawood and his colleagues Emma Jones and Marie Messenger Davies, were said to have shared on Twitter material that criticised The Sun, The Daily Mail and News UK and which was disrespectful towards named journalists.
The Tweets shared by Mr Heawood included one concerning the Daily Mail which stated: “John Lewis is bringing its name into disrepute by advertising in a Neo Facsist rag.”
Mr Heawood , referring to a campaign to stop companies advertising in some newspapers, tweeted: “I do like @StopFundHate’s campaign to defund racist media.”
Ruling that Mr Heawood should be barred from sitting on Impress’s regulator sub-committee, the report stated that he and Ms Jones and Ms Messenger Davies accepted they unintentionally breached the regulatory body’s standards.
A spokesman for Impress said: “We regulate s wide range of independent innovative news publications. Concerns about Impress’s impartiality were raised by papers including The Sun which have no intention of joining Impress
If they did decide to join we can confirm they would be regulated to the same high standards as every other member publication.”