Rival press regulator Impress begins recruiting as JK Rowling helps it to nearly £100k funding

Rival press regulator Impress claims to have raised nearly £100,000 in funding and this week began the search for an appointments panel to recruit its board.

In line with the Royal Charter on press regulation, the appointments panel will have a majority of members who are independent of the press.

Impress plans to set up a regulator which broadly complies with the Royal Charter. But the group has yet to decide whether or not it will seek official recognition.

Under the terms of the Crime and Courts Act, publications which are part of an officially-recognised press regulator are protected from the threat of exemplary damages in libel and privacy cases.

Founding director of Impress Jonathan Heawood said: “At the Impress Project, we are coming to the end of a six-month consultation period during which we have toured the United Kingdom talking to journalists and news publishers about our plans.

“We have had a very warm reception from independent publishers who share our vision of a regulator which is independent of government and commercial interests. They are not convinced by the handful of publishers behind IPSO, and they believe that Impress is better placed to build their readers' trust and loyalty in a hyper-competitive market.

“We are now taking the next steps towards establishing a regulator by seeking candidates for the Impress appointment panel. We have always aimed to be compatible with the Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press, so we will be following the appointment procedure laid out in the charter.

“The appointment panel will have a mixture of industry and non-industry members. Once it is in place, this panel will work to appoint a board for the regulator.

"We will make a decision on whether Impress should seek recognition under the charter after our consultation has closed in early June.”

Most national newspapers and a number of regional press and magazine publishers have signed up to the Independent Press Standards Organisation which is set to launch early next month.

Critics of IPSO say that it is not sufficiently independent from the press industry.

Speaking at the London Press Club awards this week, Telegraph executive director Lord Black described Impress as a “phony” regulator which had raised “about £27” in funding.

Heawood told Press Gazette that Impress had raised £15,000 through online crowdfunding and received a further £25,000 “offline”. The novelist JK Rowling has agreed to match this with a further £40,000. Impress has a further £15,000 of seed funding making a total of £95,000.

Heawood said this should be sufficient to get Impress through to launch, but that further funding would be needed to put it on a sustainable footing long-term.

While the Financial Times has withdrawn from external regulation altogether, the Lebedev titles (Standard and Independent) and Guardian News and Media have yet to reveal whether they will join IPSO.

Heawood said he was having “constructive conversations” with both groups.

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