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« “The gentleman from ASH” | Main | Anything interesting in the papers today, Deborah? »
Friday
Mar022018

Even without the Max factor, Deborah’s press regulation role is surely untenable

Further to my previous post, and leaving aside the Max factor, there's a serious point to be made about Deborah Arnott's position on the board of Impress, a state-approved press regulator.

It’s exactly two years since I first wrote about Impress. I highlighted two articles, one by Mick Hume, former editor of Spiked (A new free-speech outfit – for less press freedom), the other by the late Peter Preston, former editor of the Guardian (Newspaper regulator Impress is repressive, dangerous - and daft).

As you can tell from the headlines, they both expressed serious concerns about the new body.

Last year the News Media Association, which describes itself as "the voice of national, regional and local news media organisations in the UK", published a dossier about Impress.

According to the Sun (a member of the NMA), it revealed what some committee members and staff at Impress "really think about the very papers they will be expected to make unbiased judgements on".

Those singled out by the paper were Jonathan Heawood, founder and chief executive of Impress; Máire Messenger Davies, who is both a member of the board and chair of its Code Committee; Martin Hickman and Emma Jones who are on the board and members of the Code Committee; and Gavin Phillipson, Paul Wragg and Mary Fitzgerald who are also members of the Code Committee.

The list of comments, tweets and retweets is too long to list (you can read it here) but they suggest a general abhorrence of the Sun, Daily Mail and other centre right newspapers plus (in some cases) support for an advertising boycott of the Mail.

Like the Sun, I don't think it's unreasonable to question the suitability of people with such views to sit in judgement on those very same newspapers.

Until yesterday one member of the Impress board who had gone largely under the radar was the CEO of ASH. I'm not sure why.

ASH receives annual grants of taxpayers' money and enjoys a close relationship with government. Am I alone in thinking that it's inappropriate for the chief executive of a partisan lobby group to be a member of a board that could influence the relationship between politicians and the press?

Another issue is Arnott's support for Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that seeks to restrict if not prohibit interaction between governments and the tobacco industry.

It may be a leap but it concerns me that an advocate of this and other restrictive practices is now involved in press regulation.

All things considered, I can’t help thinking that the two roles – CEO of ASH and member of the board of Impress - are incompatible.

If Deborah hasn't got the sense to recognise that then I would seriously question her judgement.

Meanwhile I couldn’t help noticing this comment by Impress chief executive Jeremy Heawood:

“Impress is entirely independent of the publishers we regulate and the donors who support our work.”

Let’s assume Arnott endorses that statement.

If it’s true (that Impress is independent of the donors who support their work), why can’t it be equally true that Forest is independent of the donors who support our work?

Instead, Arnott never tires of reminding the media that Forest is funded by tobacco companies, the clear inference being that - far from being independent - we are merely stooges of Big Tobacco.

The only conclusion one can draw is: there’s one rule for groups she’s involved in, and another for those she detests.

What a hypocrite.

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Reader Comments (6)

Yes this vile woman is certainly a hypocrite. Its amazing to me how they manage to keep their funding when everyone else has had to make severe cuts. The gravy train rolls on and there is always their big pension to look forward to when they've finished bullying ordinary people who enjoy a smoke.

Friday, March 2, 2018 at 16:46 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

She has got the sense to recognise it and she knows it is in her smokerphobic interests to have a role in regulating the press and ensuring the hate campaign against legitimate consumers continues without any opposition.

Smokerphobia and anti-smokerism have become religions of the middle classes and ASH is the church. To speak against St Deborah will surely bring hellfire and damnation upon the heads of any newspaper that dares to challenge this extremely powerful and influential but unelected nasty bureaucrat.

She took the role, in my opinion, so that nothing can ever be written in future to expose the scam of shs, ths, or stop the marginalisation of legimitate adult consumers who debs does not want in her utopian new world.

Having power over Govt and the press to beat up smokers that bit more is her only motivation for being on the board of the clearly tyrannical Impress.

Friday, March 2, 2018 at 16:48 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

I believe you describe a case of deliberate hypocrisy. It appears the reason for an advocate to sit on a press regulatory board would be to advocate for censorship of information that runs counter to their position. So very totalitarian; it's almost as if Impress is an elite propaganda ministry.

Friday, March 2, 2018 at 18:20 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

It is, of course, massively hypocritical of Arnott to be serving on a body supposedly concerned with Press freedom and fairness when she’s spent the last however-many years ensuring (or helping to ensure) that the media toe her particular line in respect of her particular hobby-horse. But we shouldn’t be surprised, though, should we? Hypocritical is what the anti-smoking movement does better than anyone else. It’s been their modus operandi from the get-go, so why change a winning formula? No, hypocrisy runs in Arnott’s bones right down so deep that she probably doesn’t even realise the irony of her being in this role. Rather more worrying is the remarkably slender grasp on the whole concept of Press freedom and fairness that a body set up, supposedly, to ensure this very thing, has shown itself to have by appointing her!

But, more positively, might this be a tiny sign that Arnott is finally looking outside the field of anti-smoking and only anti-smoking for her next career move? Maybe, with fewer and fewer people smoking, and with cuts to anti-smoking “services” popping up all over the place, she feels that the writing’s on the wall and that she’s now got to move into another, perhaps rather more varied, role in order to keep her personal gravy-train running. If so, then I’d bet my bottom dollar that she hasn’t shared these concerns with her ASH colleagues ....

Monday, March 5, 2018 at 0:29 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I wouldn't read too much into it, Misty. It's not unusual for people in Deborah's position to be offered non-executive roles on bodies such as this.

Likewise I don't agree with Pat that pursuing ASH's agenda to denormalise and eradicate smoking would be a reason to accept the invitation to join the board of Impress. There's no evidence to date that she has used the position in this way and, with nine other people on the board, I think it would be very difficult to pursue such a course even if she wanted to.

It would of course be interesting to know why she accepted the position but so far she's not saying, publicly at least. If I was a trustee of ASH I'd certainly want an answer and perhaps she's given them one. It would be helpful if they could share it.

As for Deborah moving on from ASH, I can't see that happening in the foreseeable future. I'm sure she knows there's still a lot of work to be done to 'make smoking history' and she's invested far too much of her career in this field to walk away now.

Monday, March 5, 2018 at 10:20 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

You don't have to agree with me of course. But there is nothing about that woman that I trust and I judge her on past history.

For "make smoking history" also read it as "criminalise those who won't quit" by forcing them into criminality. She will be aware that this must happen to reach her utopia. I can't remember where I read it but the extortionate tax forcing poor smokers to the black market in Australia has now come to the threat of 5 years in prison for any smoker in possession of tobacco not bought in shops, that I also understand are being moved further and further away from where a smoker lives to make it harder and harder for them to buy legal tobacco..

Someone as biased in their thinking as Deborah Arnott should never be allowed anywhere near press regulation because, in my opinion, she cannot be trusted to be fair or impartial on the issue of smoking, health and choice.

I don't believe there is any goodness in her, or she would not head the public hate campaign being waged against us, and I do think she got herself on the board because of her vested interests in hating smokers and creating her ultimate goal of a world with no smokers in it.

How many ministers are there in Govt? More than 9. She got into the health dept and look at how she turned the whole of Parliament against us with her drip, drip, drip scaremongering, bullying and harassment of any MP on our side. I have no doubt she would use the same tactics against the other members of the board if she wanted to suppress or punish the press for writing something positive about smokers or smoking.

This is only my opinion and I am sure there is a lot said here that you disagree with too.

Monday, March 5, 2018 at 17:15 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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