The Press Recognition Panel’s (PRP) ongoing recognition of IMPRESS as an accredited self-regulatory body for the UK press damages public confidence in the PRP’s ability to fulfil its role, the Society of Editors (SoE) has said.
Responding to the PRP’s annual call for information on the effectiveness and independence of press regulation in the UK, the Society said that while it remains opposed to the system of press regulation imposed by the Royal Charter, it was concerning that IMPRESS is still recognised by the PRP despite its “failure to meet aspects of the key criteria laid out in the Royal Charter”.
It said: “The Society is on record as saying that it does not believe that there is a role for the Press Recognition Panel and we remain opposed to the system of press regulation imposed by the Royal Charter.
“By its own acknowledgement, the PRP is the independent body set up by Royal Charter to ensure that regulators of the UK press and other news publishers are independent, properly funded and able to protect the public. The Society remains deeply concerned that IMPRESS’ application failed to meet key aspects of the recognition criteria laid out in the Royal Charter and we believe that serious questions remain as to its independence, credibility and financial long-term viability.”
The Society said that IMPRESS continued to be unrepresentative of the press as a whole and pointed to the fact that it derives the majority of its funding through the Independent Press Regulation Trust (IPRT), a charitable trust funded in turn by the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust (AMCT), as evidence that it lacks due independence, impartiality and long-term financial viability.
It added: “The Society remains concerned that this ongoing source of funding does not meet the criteria set out in the Charter governing independence or financial stability and legitimate questions remain as to the regulatory body’s long-term financial future and the public’s perception of the regulator’s impartiality.”
It remains that the industry has established a tough new system of press regulation under the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the Society said, and “IPSO continues to fulfil the role of a regulator in line with the Leveson recommendations”. Furthermore, its membership comprises the majority of the national press and regional and local publishers, the Society said.
While it continued to be of the mindset that there is no legitimate role for the PRP in respect of press regulation in the UK, the PRP had a duty to abide by the statutory criteria set out in the Charter if it continued to operate, the Society said.
It added: “In continuing to recognise IMPRESS as an accredited self-regulatory body, the Society is concerned that the PRP may lose public confidence in the perception of its ability to fulfil the role for which it was intended.”