Rival press regulator Impress now claims to cover more than 40 publications with a combined readership of more than two million.
But they are still mainly niche and local publications with most major national and regional newspapers and magazines signed up to industry-backed regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Impress founder and director Jonathan Heawood addressed a London conference today as IPSO marked its second year in operation.
Impress is expected to find out next month from the Government-backed Press Recognition Panel whether it will get official recognition under the Royal Charter. If it does, its members will be protected from the threat of exemplary damages in court cases.
If Impress were to get official recognition, its members could gain protection from paying the court costs of successful claimants who sue them. Publishers who are not members of Impress could face paying both sides’ legal costs in libel actions that they win. But both these measures will only come into force under a clause in the Crime and Courts Act which has yet to be commenced by the Government.
Heawood said that his regulator hopes to help restore trust in journalism, noting that according to research by the European Broadcasting Union only 22 per cent of Britons say they trust the press.
He said: “We offer a simple and straightforward complaints-handling system. We help publishers put together editorial policies for their sites and print editions. We ask them to be transparent about any conflicts of interest and to follow clear ethical guidelines.
“In return, we allow them to display our Trust Mark.
“More than 40 publications, with a combined readership of more than two million people, have already signed up to Impress, with more joining all the time.
“We are funded for at least the next four years by a charity, the Independent Press Regulation Trust, which supports our aims but has no influence over the membership of our Board or our standards code or our adjudications or investigations – or in fact over any aspect of our operations or governance.
“This start-up funding means that Impress is independent and sustainable.”
Impress has faced criticism because of the fact that the vast majority of its funding, £3.8m, comes from the Independent Press Regulation Trust which is turn funded by a charity set up by press reform campaigner Max Mosley.
Heawood said that some publishers see a commercial benefit from signing up to Impress.
He said: “These publishers are joining Impress because see the reputational and commercial benefits that independent regulation can bring. They see that our values match theirs, and that we can help them to survive and thrive in a competitive market.
“They see that independent regulation drives accountability. That accountability drives trust. And that trust drives sustainability.”
Since the formation of IPSO the publishers of The Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times have all opted out of press regulation altogether.