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March 1, 2018

Skwawkbox among Impress members considering cutting ties with regulator over Daily Mail’s Max Mosley revelations

By Charlotte Tobitt

Skwawkbox is among a handful of publishers regulated by Impress who have said they are considering cutting ties with the press watchdog following Daily Mail revelations about Max Mosley.

The independent left-wing website’s editor, Steve Walker, told Press Gazette: “Our membership of Impress is under review but no decision has been taken.”

It comes after a “racist” political pamphlet from 1961 was unearthed by the Daily Mail this week, bearing Mosley’s name as publisher.

Mosley told Press Gazette in a statement yesterday that he did not recognise the leaflet, adding: “It is not something I would have ever wished to be associated with. It is offensive and divisive.”

Mosley indirectly funds Impress through two charities – the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust and the Independent Press Regulation Trust – to the tune of nearly £1m a year.

Press Gazette has made contact with every member of Impress, asking if they were concerned by the revelations about Mosley’s past and, by extension, his ties to Impress.

Llanelli Online and Gedling Eye also said they were considering their position with the alternative press watchdog as a result of the Mail’s coverage this week.

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Gedline Eye editor-in-chief David Bratton said: “The Daily Mail revelations this week are very concerning to us and we are currently considering what action to take in regards to our Impress membership.”

Llanelli Online editor Alan Evans said: “We are monitoring what is being discussed in the press and we have contacted Impress for clarification.” He also said that “given the revelations” it would be right for Impress to “review its association with Max Mosley and his funding of the organisation”.

Bristol 24/7 has told the Times it is “uncomfortable” about continuing to belong to Impress in light of the Mail’s coverage.

The paper reported editor Martin Booth as saying: “Mosley’s involvement with Impress is vague and I am considering whether Bristol 24/7 should continue being a member.”

Two other titles told Press Gazette that they were either investigating further or awaiting the outcome of a police investigation into claims Mosley might have committed perjury.

Mosley denied knowledge of the leaflet during a 2008 privacy case with the News of the World over reports of his involvement in an orgy with paid dominatrices.

In a Channel 4 News interview this week, the former motor racing boss strongly denied committing perjury. He said: “Perjury is saying something you think is untrue – you know is untrue. I said something which I knew in my own mind was true. There’s no question of perjury.”

The Mail is said to have handed the 1961 pamphlet bearing Mosley’s name and a dossier of information relating to him to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has been passed to police.

Labour announced on Wednesday that it would refuse any further funding from Mosley after deputy leader Tom Watson received more than £500,000 in donations from him.

Watson stood by Mosley in Parliament today, saying: “If I thought for one moment he held those views contained in that leaflet 57 years ago I would not have given him the time of day.”

Skwawkbox  editor Walker said: “Our membership of Impress is under review but no decision has been taken.

“The fact that Impress receives a large part of its funding from any one, wealthy individual has always been far from ideal, but the UK needs a genuine, Leveson-compliant press regulator.

“If Impress folded for lack of funding, there would be no meaningful press regulation in the UK, as IPSO is run by the organisations it’s supposed to regulate and has been called a ‘sham’ and ‘the illusion of reform’.

“Impress therefore cannot be allowed to collapse for lack of funding, especially in view of Matt Hancock’s Leveson statement this morning, which amounts to a declaration of war on the independent media to protect the corporate press that he laughably called the ‘lifeblood of our democracy’.

“It should, however, be looking urgently for alternative sources of support – though it seems clear that the government has no intention of funding genuinely-independent press regulation.”

Jonathan Heawood, Impress chief executive, said: ‘Over the last couple of days, we have been in touch with all Impress-regulated publications.

“No­-one has told us that they are going to resign over the stories in the Daily Mail. In fact, most of our members have expressed their continuing support. One member told me just now on the phone that he’s glad to be associated with Impress.

“We hugely appreciate our members’ commitment to independent news publishing in the UK and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Some publishers told Press Gazette they were keeping their options open, and may yet consider leaving Impress after an investigation into Mosley.

Phil Creighton, publisher of The Wokingham Paper, condemned the leaflet as “vile and disgusting” and said that despite his positive reasons for joining Impress, he may later review his membership.

He said: “Impress says that its funding model means that any backers cannot influence the way in which it works. Its code of conduct clamps down on this kind of hate speech.

“We joined Impress because we were impressed with its vision and, like all good newspapers, we welcome scrutiny in the standards that we hold and work to.

“A YouGov poll released yesterday revealed yet again that local journalism is the most trusted source of local news and that is because we aspire to the highest standards in our reporting.

“If, as result of the subsequent investigation in to this leaflet, we feel we need to review our Impress membership to ensure we remain a trusted source of local news, we will do so.”

Adam Cunard, editor-in-chief of Bognor Regis Post and Chichester Post, also said he would seek further information before making a decision on his title’s membership of Impress.

He said: “Post Newpapers has recently become a member of Impress and has been happy with its support up to now.

“I am unaware of the full details of the latest reporting about Max Mosley. I will be seeking further information before I make a decision about whether to stay as a member or not.

“I will also take account of the actions of other regional newspapers around the country.”

Of the 14 publishers who responded to our request for comment, most said they remained in support of Impress.

These include The Canary, Now Then Magazine, The Gosport Globe, Shetland News, Descrier, Common Space, and Boundless magazine publisher Arkbound.

Stephen Mcnaught, editor-in-chief of Arkbound, said he “noted and appreciated” the concerns raised, but added: “Impress is not run by Mr Mosley: it is an independent body and a necessary outcome of the Leveson Enquiry, since incorporated as a media regulator under Royal Charter.

“Further, if all entities are judged solely by the actions of their supporters in their youth then the papers would be full of similar condemnations on an almost constant basis.”

Tim Dickinson, founder of Descrier, admitted concerns over Mosley’s funding were a “major sticking point” before joining Impress, but said he had been assured that Mosley has zero influence over the regulator.

He said: “We aren’t going to cut ties with Impress over this –  Mosley has no direct influence over Impress, it decisions, or its members.

“I would prefer Impress to look elsewhere for future funding, but I do not believe they should have to give any back any money already promised.”

A spokesperson for Common Space, a digital news service in Scotland, said the issue would be discussed by its board but that it remains “committed to fair and transparent independent regulation of our news reporting”.

“Nothing in these revelations affects our commitment to journalism which exposes abusive views,” they added.

“Will every news outlet in the country be held to account for the decades-old views of anyone they have the loosest connection to? Or is this reserved only for those who believe the public deserve something better than the self-serving self-regulation of media outlets owned by corporations?”

Picture: BBC

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