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ASH CEO on board of "repressive, dangerous and daft" press regulator

This is not 'news' but it is interesting and potentially disturbing.

If you followed the tortuous Leveson Inquiry you'll be aware that two press regulators have emerged to replace the old Press Complaints Commission.

One is the newspaper industry-backed Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the other rejoices in the name of Impress (Independent Monitor for the Press).

A handful of newspapers and magazines including the Guardian and FT have refused to join either but the overwhelming majority have gone with Ipso despite criticism that self-regulation doesn't work.

Part of the appeal may be Ipso's refusal to sign up to a Royal Charter on the basis that this would amount to "government control of the press".

In contrast, Impress has no such qualms:

A would-be press regulator has confirmed it has the backing of a small number of local publishers in its bid to become the recognised watchdog for the industry.

Most of the regional and national press has recognised the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) as the industry regulator following the abolition of the old Press Complaints Commission.

However Ipso has made clear it has no intention of applying for recognition as a press regulator under the government’s Royal Charter, on the grounds that this would amount to state regulation of the press.

Now a rival regulator, Impress, has confirmed that it is seeking recognition under the Charter after winning the backing of a number of small publishing groups.

Its 13 members include a Scottish-based crowd-funded investigative website, The Ferret, hyperlocal online publishers such as the Caerphilly Observer, The Lincolnite, Your Harlow and Staffordshire-based A Little Bit of Stone,

According to its website, the new body is "blazing a trail for a fairer, better kind of press regulation":

Do you believe that a publisher regulated by Impress has breached our standards code? We are here to help.

We will award a trusted journalism mark to news publishers who meet our standards. We will give these publishers the freedom to report hard-hitting stories and the responsibility to behave fairly if complaints are made against them. We will have the power to decide on complaints which publishers cannot resolve.

Ominously however the one (former) tabloid journalist on the board resigned and withdrew her support eight months ago. According to Press Gazette:

Former Sun journalist Sue Evison said she is now backing the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the successor body to the Press Complaints Commission which most major newspaper and magazine publishers belong to.

So who is on the board of Impress? You can read the full list here but one name stands out:

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

Yes, the CEO of a highly partisan political lobby group that actively seeks to stifle debate about smoking and health is now a self-styled press regulator. You couldn't make it up.

Naturally Impress is keen to emphasise Deborah's journalistic background:

As a producer and programme editor in current affairs and documentaries she developed and ran a wide range of programmes for ITV and Channel 4.

Truth is, she's far better known for her work with ASH for whom she has worked for 12-13 years. And she was hardly shy about her 'accomplishment' in delivering a highly contentious piece of legislation. In fact, she revelled in it.

If you want to know what kind of body Impress may turn out to be, I recommend you read Mick Hume, former editor of Spiked and author of two books about press freedom and freedom of speech - There is No Such Thing as a Free Press… And We Need One More Than Ever, and Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?

Writing in December 2013, Hume commented:

You might naively imagine that a free-speech campaign would be about campaigning for freedom of expression. But that, it seems, is a sadly outdated view. This week brought the high-profile launch of Impress, self-billed as ‘a new kind of free-speech organisation’. It is indeed - the ‘kind of free-speech organisation’ that does not appear to support freedom of the press, except for those views of which it approves.

The aim of Impress – the Independent Monitor for the Press – is to set up an independent press regulator as an alternative to both the politicians’ royal charter and the newspaper industry’s own proposed regulator, Ipso – the Independent Press Standards Organisation. Impress wants to establish ‘independent press regulation with teeth’ that can enforce the ‘Leveson principles’.

The central principle of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the ‘culture, practice and ethics’ of the UK press is of course the assumption that the press has been too free to run wild and needs to be tamed. To that end Impress wants to establish a regulator that can adjudicate on complaints, not only from those directly affected by what has been published but also from third parties and ‘representative groups’, and dictate the ‘nature, extent and placement of corrections’. The Impress body would also have the power, like IPSO, to investigate infringements of its code and impose fines of up to £1million …

The Impress ‘prospectus’ also hints at ominous-sounding steps towards what would effectively be pre-publication vetting. It states that the regulator will ‘offer an advisory service to news providers where there is a high risk of a breach of the code or civil law’. Whether or not news providers choose to obey this ‘advice’ will be ‘taken into consideration’ in any subsequent complaints procedures or court cases. In other words, toeing the line is voluntary, but if you don’t volunteer to do as you’re told there might be a high price to pay.

I'll give the final word to former Guardian editor Peter Preston who wrote about Impress last year. Actually I don't need to quote from his article. Headlines can be misleading but this one is pretty clear:

Newspaper regulator Impress is repressive, dangerous - and daft.

Arnott and Impress are well suited, it would seem.

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Reader Comments (2)

So - the Stasi is now officially in charge of our press. RIP press freedom. We will have a controlled media which will never be allowed to scrutinise any public health propaganda in future for fear of falling foul of Debs' bullies and thugs.

Surely there must be some body that we can complain to about this outrageous appointment of a bigot who isn't interested in honesty or a truthful and factual press but rather one she can control to push further her smokerphobic hate agenda.

Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 8:05 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Dear Mr Clark

The Guardian piece is almost a confession:

"We argued that secondhand smoke is a killer - "

It isn't, they lied - misconduct in a public office.

"Campaigning of this kind is literally a confidence trick: "

And con artists to boot.

They should be prosecuted, and if found guilty, jailed and their taxpayer funded pensions stripped from them.

IMPRESS (registered 24 June 2015) are funded to the tune of £3.8 million for the next four years by the Independent Press Regulation Trust (IPRT), a charity registered on 20 July 2015 - just in time to provide their funding. It will be interesting to read both sets of accounts when they are published.


Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 10:43 | Unregistered CommenterDP

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