A decision on whether to recognise press regulator Impress under the Royal Charter has been deferred until next month at the earliest.
The deferral was made today at a meeting of the Press Recognition Panel, which will decide whether to approve Impress according to its ability to meet the charter’s 29 recognition criteria.
It came in the light of concerns from media organisations over the panel’s interpretation of the charter and the fact this was expressed only after a second call for information was made when Impress revised its original application.
The panel called for additional information, expected to open within a few days, and is allowing 20 working days for organisations to submit information relating to Impress’s application.
If its application is approved, Impress will be the UK’s only chartered regulator for newspapers. Rival the Independent Press Standards Organisation has not sought charter recognition.
Panel chairman David Wolfe QC (pictured top) said: “In the confidential session of our meetings this morning, the board had its first opportunity to discuss, as a board, what further action it should take, if any, in the light of correspondence received in the last few days in particular from organisations including the NMA, Associated News, 89up, the Periodical Publishers Association and the Scottish Newspapers Association.
“Those organisations made a point about the process we followed in regards to Impress’s application […].
“The organisations I have mentioned have raised a specific concern that the indicative view on the interpretation of the charter which we expressed earlier in the year came after our second call for information and that timing might have prompted them or others to have provided us with additional information on the Impress application had it been known to them.
“In other words, had they known our indicative view at the time of the call for information they might have expressed or provided to us additional information.
“Mindful of that and keen to ensure that everybody has the fullest opportunity to respond to the application so that we in turn have the fullest possible basis to make a robust and independent decision on Impress’s application, the board has today decided to defer its consideration of the Impress application to allow a 20 working day further call for information.
“This call for information seeks additional information related to Impress’s application, as it now stands, in the light of the indicative view on the interpretation of the charter criteria which we previously provided.
“We expect to open that process within the next few days and the board will consider responses to it at a further board meeting at the earliest opportunity.”
Campign group Index on Censorship said it welcomed the delay, adding: “We are extremely concerned that recognition of Impress has the potential to introduce punitive measures for small publishers and to stifle investigative journalism.
“We are also concerned that about the transparency of its funding. These are factors that threaten freedom of the press. We hope the decision today gives an opportunity for a rethink.”
Hacked Off joint-executive director Evan Harris said: “If this postponement was necessary it is only a consequence of the PRP seeking to be transparent and consultative, which is something never seen in the press industry’s regulatory arrangements, such as the body which controls IPSO, or indeed IPSO itself.
“The press industry is simply trying to intimidate the Press Recognition Panel, just as it has attacked Impress and bullied the victims of press abuse.
The Royal Charter was created in 2013 following recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of newspapers. The Press Recognition Panel was created by the charter a year later as a watchdog to oversee a new press regulator.
Impress applied for recognition in January.