IMPRESS (Independent Media and Press Regulator) was created in the wake of the News of the world scandal in 2011 and the reason for this creation was the goal of creating an independent review body of the press without links to government in order that this new organisation will be untainted. However, the creation of IMPRESS has become criticised because in some theatres it is viewed as an organisation based to protect the press rather than being completely independent and has a membership of forty-five press organisations and therefore it cannot be viewed with unbiased interest. When discussing the effectiveness of IMPRESS, it is necessary to consider its history and to include examples of poor journalism and the responsibilities of the press, the media and of journalists. It also must be understood the effects of development of the World Wide Web and alternative source of communication and information such as social media sites and other alternative sources. This essay will focus on two aspects and how effective and how unaffected IMPRESS really is as an organisation and whether or not IMPRESS is fit for purpose in this new technologically advanced age. Ultimately it will be understood throughout the essay as an organisation IMMPRESS is limited goals and capabilities is in fact successful at meeting these. However, conclusively throughout the work you will see that IMPRESS is not up to purpose for its task to regulate the media because the organisation does not possess the necessary resources to successfully reach the goal of ethical journalism which served public good because it was not created to facilitate the needs of a far more diverse media environment with alternative sources of information also the necessary laws and powers do not exist because journalism and certain areas of the media do not have professions. Therefore, cannot be regulated to same standards which do exist in organisations such as police force teaching institutions and other professional organisations.
The creation of Impress was sparked by the news in Spring 2011 (News International) began publicly admitting liability and paying compensation to people whose phones the News of the World had tapped, including that of murdered Milly Dowler. This resulted in the News of the World ceasing publication. Lord Leveson, a senior judge, was appointed in 2011 to conduct an inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. In 2012 he issued a damning report that recommended replacing the old Press Complaints Commission (PCC). He also called for a new body to help set up a replacement, and The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) was established. The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) is an independent body set up to ensure that any organisation which regulates the press is independent, properly funded and able to protect the public, while recognising the important role carried out by the press. On 8 September 2014, instead of completely closing, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) rebranded itself and the PCC was replaced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), whilst retaining most of the features that the Leveson Inquiry had wanted to get removed. At the same time a new group was being formed called IMPRESS. Unlike IPSO, this organisation was not going to be funded the same way as IPSO. This would be a fully independent body, to ensure that it followed the recommendations of Leveson. IMPRESS has caused friction with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and the big national titles, who are mostly owned by the same publishing groups, plus also the regional papers, by challenging IPSO’s control of the regulation of the UK Press. IMPRESS, as of October 2016 became the UK’s first officially recognised press regulator after its application for Royal Charter recognition was granted, in a move backed by many campaign groups and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). IPSO, with the help of The News Media Association – which represents many of the largest IPSO members – requested a ‘judicial review’ on the grounds that “That is not what Leveson or those drafting the Charter intended.”, the case was rejected by the High Court, a decision IPSO intend to appeal. As a recognised regulatory body, all members of Impress will now be immune from exemplary damages in libel and privacy cases and from the cost shifting element of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act if it ever comes into force. See Section 40, Crime and Courts Act 2013. By looking at the development and the duration of IMPRESS which is addressed in this paragraph it can be understood that IMPREES is a reactionary force to monitor the press and to develop a culture of ethical journalism. However instead IMPRESS being a proactive force in the media and press it is an organisation that is underdeveloped and not fit the purpose in this new modern age with alternative sources of information and the means to gather and communicate a new story. Therefore, it must strongly be at that IMPRESS does not have the necessary tools because there is not exist a political environment they can adequately combat this issue. This due to the political community throughout this decade in United Kingdom have been focused on Scottish referendum 2014 and the outcome of the 2016 and the British voting to leave the European Union. With the decision to leave the European Union and the brakes negotiations as well as the political fallout in Scotland of the Scottish referendum which has led to the collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland this is relevant to the whole question because with the political community focused on leaving European Union and fighting to keep United Kingdom. Therefore, this means that the required political energy and resources will not be used to properly regulate the press and the new media because it requires new and imaginative decision-making.
IMPRESS, the regulator which was created to be independent after the phone hacking scandal in 2011 was created in hopes that new independent body will be admired and respected as a regulator that was independent without government involvement. With the Plans to set up a new press watchdog by Royal Charter were backed in 2013 by Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister at the time, and the UK’s other main party leaders at the time, Ed Miliband Labour and Nick Clegg Liberal Democrats , but the press rejected them and formed its own regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso). The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) was set up under the same Royal Charter to ensure that regulators of the UK’s press were independent, properly funded and able to protect the public. Its main role is to consider applications from press regulators that want to be recognised as being effective. However
“The system of a Press Recognition Panel under which the regulator Impress operates amounts to state regulation in all but name,” writes Alasdair Murray
The legitimacy and liability public respect Impress needs to maintain in order to reassure the British public that the press has been properly monitored and that their rights and freedom of information is respected. Also, the concerns of the press have to be respected in order for the British public to have access to informed and accurate news especially in the age of fake news and mis-information where there is information overload and which can lead to factual issues to be confused and started. For example, the recent alleged Russian attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal. This example is good to demonstrate the importance of a press that is well regulated and can provide the public with correct and reliable information particularly in age of information overload and the press being undermined by the phone hacking scandal and political leaders such as President Donald Trump, ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage in which the commonly used phrase “fake news” is being used undermined press both in the UK and globally.
A way IMPRESS is effective is in the goal or rather the side-effect of IMPRESS is to create an environment where the public can have faith in the reporting of the news and where bad practices such as the use of false identities by Mazher Mohammed investigator editor of the News of the world who had dressed as an Arabian business on a number of occasions carry out stings by gathering narcotics in order to sell to celebrities such as R and B singer Tulisa Contostavlos. It was these methods used by Mazher Mohammed known as the fake Sheikh that was in breach of the National union of journalist’s code of conduct which states that
“Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means”.
It is in the spirit of the Western media to follow the code of conduct by the National union of journalists when it comes to conducting and gathering information in a manner that benefits the public good. This effect by the new independent press regulator is affecting because the effect is to restore public trust in the press especially in an age where the public attitude to the press and mainstream media is at an all-time low. This has led the public to alternative sources particularly satire such as in USA The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and in the United Kingdom Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. With attitudes to politicians, the media and the press, as well as news organisations, at a low after the phone hacking scandal in 2011 the work of IMPRESS is relevant and important because with the public in UK seeking alternative forms of information this can lead to the same kind of environment as in the United States where talk show hosts are far more respected than US media organisations such as Fox News and CNN. With the publics in the United States and the UK using more alternative sources of information such as Facebook and non-Western media such as China today and the Russian propaganda network RT it is vital that the work of the new regulator and its effect stem the tide of the erosion of trust between the public and media and news organisations so that the British people have access to factual information that is un-tainted.
A way that IMPRESS is not effective is the fact that the way the public consumes media is no longer through the news through organisations such as Channel 4 News, BBC news and ITV rather the public particularly the younger generations get the information from non-traditional sources. For example, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, online websites and other non-traditional sources also in age of iPhones individuals are now self-journalists such as people reporting on their phones during the start of the Arab spring in Tunisia in 2010 as well as public being able to film and record information and click news at the touch of a mobile phone. According to Rick Kennedy of the University of Virginia and Kerem Ozkan of new College of Florida with these new sources of media new methods are required to effectively regulate the press they stated that
“journalism shifts away from print and traditional newsroom structures in the new media age.”
So in response to the change in the way information is concerned they advocated more of a link between the American peoples and the media in order to be effective in regulating producing news benefits the American public they stated that
“we argue that media ombudsmanship does not go far enough in giving voice and visibility to the work of critiquing media performance, responding to media consumers, and interacting with community.”
“promoting the idea of new media accessibility as a communitarian ideal-grassroots lobbying to remedy wrongs-may be the key to gaining wider acceptance and participation, from the public and from the press, of an ombudsman”.
By looking at this recommendation by Rick Kennedy and Kerem Ozkan we can see an effective alternative all-round improvement to IMPRESS could be achieved instead of using outdated, traditional methods for example the ombudsman, or public advocate is an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights. The ombudsman is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence. In some countries an inspector general, citizen advocate or other official may have duties similar to those of a national ombudsman, and may also be appointed by a legislature. Below the national level an ombudsman may be appointed by a state, local or municipal government. Unofficial ombudsmen may be appointed by, or even work for, a corporation such as a utility supplier, newspaper, NGO, or professional regulatory body. But instead of this more traditional form IMPRESS will be far more effective if it became truly independent not supported by a Royal Charter. but rather a strong relationship and dialogue between the British public and media to ensure the return of public trust.
Another effective way IMPRESS is highly effective is that its goal is to ensure that the British public have access to quality information in order to make informed and qualified decisions by looking at the American’s first amendment we can use this to compare to the British system. This is because the difficulties that arise in this new modern technologically advanced age where
“advocates of a free press traditional point to 1st amendment ideal of an unrestricted marketplace of ideas where the open discussion of public affairs can take place; they demand a hands-off approach.”
But in the United Kingdom with is a different political and a slightly less capitalist and free-market attitude to the economy and also in how the press is regulated and monitored by the government. With this understanding we can speculate that one of the important effects of IMPRESS is that having a semi-independent regulator to monitor the press helps to ensure freedom of the press and its integrity because of the;
“finding this traditional approach inadequate to meet the realities of modern mass media, fair press forces have advocated a legal right of access to news media. Advocates of enforce access argue that the first amendment is primarily meant to provide for full debate of issues of public import so that the citizenry can make informed decisions.”
This demonstrates that despite the work of IMPRESS the long-standing political and the standing of traditional media outlets have been and are under a state of long-term political decay and mistrust from the British public which is arguably in the case of the United Kingdom since the end of the Suez crisis in 1956. In contrast, in the United States where ex-president Johnson repeatedly stated that the Americans were not going to be involved in war in Vietnam which turned out to be a conflict that lasted from 1964 until American withdrawal in the 70s. With the Paris Peace Accords, officially titled the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, was a peace treaty signed on January 27, 1973 to establish peace in Vietnam and end the Vietnam War. By understanding the context and the historical and political relevance of how the public attitude to the political community and the elites that govern we can understand how the public been repeatedly let down and lied to is that public trust must be restored. By looking at the works of E.H Carr author of (The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939) in which he makes the argument that every generation will tear down by revolution or coming into power the order of their current political leaders or to a degree their parents. This is relevant to the question “how effective the work of IMPRESS is” because the view in this essay is that IMPRESS shall fulfill its intended purpose to adequately regulate the mainstream press however it will fail either through lack of resources and lack of regulation to regulate new media sources such as Facebook and Twitter which are traditionally resistant to such regulation.
A drawback on how effective IMPRESS is that the Press Recognition Panel gives alternative press regulator Impress Royal Charter backing as well as in 2015, IMPRESS entered into an agreement with the IPRT (Independent Press Regulation Trust) for £3.8m in funding over a four-year period. This can be perceived as government control over the media affecting its independence because despite being a supposedly independent organisation IMPRESS and guarantees by Walter Merricks CBE, Chair of IMPRESS, said in a public speech at the LSE on 20 January 2016
“‘we are not and never will be beholden to anyone, and we can never be in a position where our funding could be removed if we offended a funder.’”
However, this can be viewed as government control by stealth or by influence of IMPRESS which undermines its legitimacy and his aims to regulate the press and ensure the code of conduct is one that serves the public as well as protecting journalists. But IMPRESS put in safeguards in order to safeguard IMPRESS’s regulatory independence, it is crucial to put a firewall in place between IMPRESS and any donors. The IPRT grant can only be withdrawn in exceptional circumstances (for instance, if IMPRESS goes bankrupt) and there is no capacity for any donor to exert influence on IMPRESS. Despite the government grant and the fact that IMPRESS has a charter is can still maintain its independence however perception can be far more damaging than reality because without the confidence of the public work of IMPRESS to restore trust will be surely undermined and will lead to the ultimate goal to be undermined.
Journalism did not develop in a vacuum rather journalism evolved from propaganda and spinning news stories and information to suit political elites (Jonathan Sumption, volume 1 trial by battle the 100 years’ war) in this work he makes the argument of the purpose of propaganda. This is useful in understanding the work of IMPRESS and how journalism developed and how journalism and the rise in literacy help to create a free media with the development of the printing press in the 16th century as well as the Protestant Reformation and the use of the English word which helped to spread means of communication. Along with the development and rise of the penny press in the 18th century which helped to create an environment where
“journalists should be honest, fair and courageous ingathering, reporting and interpreting information.”
It is also accurate to state that the goal of IMPRESS and its effect is to minimise harm by showing compassion and that when viewing the children and the vulnerable is that the public is protected and not harmed such as the phone hacking scandal in 2011 and practices by people such as the fake Sheikh. And other effects of IMPRESS are to:
“recognise that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into any one’s privacy.”
therefore, the commission argued that one of the most important effects of IMPRESS is to change the working culture of the media to focus more on journalism not pursuing a story that is detrimental or harmful to the public but rather for the public good.
The impartiality of IMPRESS board members can be clearly demonstrated:
Board Members of IMPRESS (https://impress.press/about-us/our-board.html)
- Walter Merricks CBE (Chair) was the first Chief Ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, with responsibility for an organisation of 1,500 staff and a £90m budget. He has just completed a six-year term as a member of the board of the Gambling Commission and has been involved in dispute resolution and regulation in the fields of legal services, healthcare, insurance, energy and intellectual property, among others. He has also worked as a legal journalist and academic.
- Deborah Arnott (Board Member) is Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which has a reputation as one of the UK’s most effective campaigning charities. She was awarded the Alwyn Smith prize by the Faculty of Public Health for her role in getting the ban on smoking in public places.
- Iain Christie (Board Member) is a mediator, facilitator and actor with a background as a barrister in human rights and media law. After 17 years at the media and entertainment law chambers 5RB, he is now an Associate Member of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, having previously served as a legal adviser in HM Diplomatic Service. Iain is joint Consultant Editor of Tugendhat and Christie: The Law of Privacy and the Media and Secretary of the Civil Mediation Council.
- Martin Hickman (Board member) is a journalist and publisher who is passionate about press freedom and ethics. He is managing director of a publishing house, Canbury Press, which specialises in contemporary non-fiction books.
- Emma Jones (Board Member) is a writer and journalist. She is a regular columnist and reporter and interviewer for The New European. Emma is a former editor of Smash Hits magazine.
- David Leigh (Board Member) is Anthony Sampson professor of reporting at City, University of London. Until he retired from the paper in 2013, he was investigations editor at The Guardian for 13 years. In a journalism career spanning over 40 years he also worked for The Observer, The Times, The Scotsman, Granada TV, Thames TV and the Washington Post.
- Máire Messenger Davies (Board Member) is Emerita Professor of Media Studies at Ulster University. After working as a journalist on UK regional newspapers and magazines, she gained a psychology PhD studying how people learn from television.
- David Robinson (Treasurer and Senior Independent Board Member) is Non-Executive Director and Audit Committee Chair of Forester Life (UK), lay member of the Investigations Committee of the Chartered Accountants of Scotland and a Trustee of charity, ‘Changing the Chemistry’.
- Patrick Swaffer (Board Member) is President of the British Board of Film Classification, the independent non-statutory body which provides trusted classification for film and video.
- Andrea Wills (Board Member) has exceptional senior experience of broadcast journalism regulation, standard-setting, and investigating serious editorial failings both in the UK and Australia. She was Independent Editorial Adviser to the BBC Trust until its closure in April, investigating over 60 complaints about BBC content over 10 years.
By looking at this list of qualified professionals having spent decades working in the media and understanding the culture there is a strong argument made that the work of IMPRESS will be highly effective in changing the working culture that will need to focus more on good journalism ethics. Journalism is typically where a journalist serves the public good which may involve breaking the law to just break in a corruption scandal or a paedophile ring. In contrast by journalism is where
“a freelance reporter working for the News of the world entered a school to talk to pupils and staff about a story concerning a female pupils relationship with a teacher. The reporting allegedly claimed she was the cousin of the people. Was the story in the public interest? Did it is therefore justified the intrusion and deceit was it an unnecessary subterfuge?”
This example uses above is a clear demonstration from practices from News of the world in 1996 and this helps to clearly demonstrate how IMPRESS goal is to change the media culture to focus more on the public good. However, it must be argued that in age where newspapers are closing not opening because of new media sources this means that there will always be money for a sensational new story produced by means as used by the fake Sheikh rather than legitimate journalism.
Overall the effect of IMPRESS is limited because it only received government recognition in 2015 and there is a far stronger argument that the culture of the media was affected more by the scandal of phone hacking in 2011 and uncovering practices by the fake Sheikh which has altered the way the media operates. However, it can be argued that IMPRESS main effect is to promote a culture of ethical journalism which focuses on public good not on solely pursuit of the story. It is still relatively early to measure the effectiveness of IMPRESS. Following all the poor behaviours of the media, press and journalists, public opinion and awareness of them is still at an all-time low in the current political and social environment. It also must be understood that the effect of IMPRESS is further overall limited in its effect to restore public trust to journalism because in the current political climate mentioned in the paragraphs above and alluded to throughout the essay it must be understood that. Throughout the Western world there is an appetite for alternative sources of information and public trust been in institutions such as parliament, the Church of England and traditional news sources such as the BBC BS all-time low. Due to this environment and lack of public trust the overall effect of IMPRESS will be limited because organisation does not have the required funding of the resources to ultimately restore trust and faith in industry in the current environment. However, in this essay the essay does allude to the fact that change that IMPRESS gives to journalism particularly the industrial and more traditional journalism does have a qualified effect because of recent scandals has been need to change. Therefore, because the change of attitude the means necessarily have been facilitated in order to bring change to the industry. But ultimately overall IMPRESS is not very effective because this is the organisation created because of the response is practices of the News of the world and order to ensure journalist act ethically in the pursuit of the public good. With IMPRESS being created as a reactionary force not a force that was created to be proactive shows that there is the political will or the inclination in the current political climate to effectively regulate the press and the rest of the media.
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