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Royal Charter

Impress achieved the status of being recognised by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) under Royal Charter in 2016 and has successfully retained that status after two cyclical reviews in 2019 and 2022.

A self-regulatory body must meet all 29 criteria of the Royal Charter to be recognised by the PRP. A High Court judgment later affirmed in law Impress’ status as a recognised self-regulatory body for the press.

Royal Charter-recognition signals to the public that the self-regulatory body is both sufficiently independent and effective in its regulation of the press.

What is a Royal Charter?

A Royal Charter is an instrument of incorporation, granted by the head of state (currently the King), which gives independent legal personality to an organisation. It defines that organisation’s objectives, constitution, and allows it to govern its own affairs. Many bodies are founded under Royal Charter, such as universities, royal hospitals, charities and professional bodies; some of the most well-known ones include the BBC, the Bank of England and the British Red Cross.

How was the Royal Charter formed?

Following the exposure of alleged criminal activity and growing concerns about the behaviour of the press in the UK in 2011, the Leveson Inquiry made a series of recommendations for a new, more effective regulatory system.

The Leveson Report recommended implementation of the system by Act of Parliament Instead, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government agreed to use a Royal Charter instead as a concession to newspaper editors, to avoid perceptions of statutory regulation of the press. The final version of the Royal Charter was agreed to by all three major party leaders, and enjoyed overwhelming cross-party support. It was then enacted in 2013.

The Royal Charter created the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), which was established on 3 November 2014, ensuring that the PRP remains wholly independent of any other body or influence. It is a highly robust legal instrument. To be amended, it would require unanimous agreement of the Board of the PRP, approval of both Houses of Parliament, a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and the King’s assent.

What is the function of the Royal Charter?

The Royal Charter gives the PRP the authority to assess self-regulatory bodies who choose to apply for recognition. It does not establish a press self-regulatory body; news publishers or third parties do this. The recognition system was designed in the interests of press freedom, so that news publishers should have the opportunity to regulate their own affairs. But to ensure the public are protected from harm and to avoid the abuses of the past, the system requires that self-regulatory bodies should conform to the basic standards specified in the Royal Charter; these standards are assessed and maintained by the PRP.

The Royal Charter lists 29 criteria that self-regulatory bodies must meet in order to be recognised.

The standards the self-regulatory body must meet include:

Preserving free expression by not having the power to prevent/censor publications

Have appropriate powers to investigate and impose remedies

Ensure the public has access to justice through a low cost arbitration scheme

Ensure that membership of the regulator is open to all publishers on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms

Be governed by an independent Board, which is independently appointed, and does not include any serving editor or politician