Fight on over decision to approve press regulator Impress under Royal Charter after news publishers win right to appeal

News publishers have been given the go-ahead to appeal a decision approving Impress as a press regulator under a state-backed system of recognition set up following the Leveson Inquiry.

The News Media Association failed in a High Court challenge against the Press Recognition Panel’s decision to recognise Impress under the Royal Charter, but the Court of Appeal has now granted it leave to appeal.

The NMA, which represents UK news publishers, has said the panel misinterpreted and misapplied the 23 Royal Charter criteria when approving Impress in October 2016.

It maintains that the panel’s decision was “deeply flawed” and that Impress in fact did not meet the definition of a regulator under the charter.

The NMA has also cited Impress’s dependence on funding from former motorsport boss Max Mosley, through two charitys, as one of the main reasons it should not have been recognised by the PRP.

In October the High Court rejected the NMA’s case and Impress has now said it remains confident the decision in its favour will be upheld at the Court of Appeal.

A spokesperson said the regulator had undergone a nine-month audit before being approved by the Royal Charter for self-regulation of the press.

They added: “We look forward to this decision being upheld by the Court of Appeal.

“Impress continues to provide regulatory choice and protection to the growing number of news publishers who sign up to our Leveson-compliant system of regulation.”

As the only press regulator approved by the Royal Charter, only Impress member publishers would be exempt from paying all legal costs in cases brought under the Data Protection Bill or Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 should they be enforced by Government – although the Prime Minister has indicated that she intends to scrap both.

The majority of the UK national media is regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which has said it will not apply for Royal Charter recognition in line with its members wishes.

The NMA has said the legal status of Impress as a recognised regulator “remains under challenge” following the Court of Appeal’s decision.

A spokesperson said: “The national and regional newspaper and magazine industry has an effective and robust self-regulatory system in place through IPSO, which 1,500 print titles and 1,100 websites are signed up to.

“Impress is a regulator funded (via two trusts) almost entirely by one wealthy individual, Max Mosley, and headed by a chief executive who has admitted to holding biases against leading newspapers and journalists.

“It is the NMA’s case that the Press Recognition Panel should not have recognised Impress and should not continue to do so in light of all the evidence which is available to it.”

At the time of the High Court judgement in October, the NMA said no significant publishers had signed up to Impress and none would do so.

More than 90 publishers have so far applied to join Impress, which says an average of five new publishers are joining it each month, although it counts title’s print editions and websites as separate entities.

The NMA’s application to the Court of Appeal was granted on 12 April, and the case must now be heard by 1 February next year.

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