8th June 2023
Impress Insights: How we can protect independent journalism amid major policy changes

Impress Insights: How we can protect independent journalism amid major policy changes

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It’s been a busy two months here at Impress. The Online Safety Bill – which is set to regulate how platforms deal with illegal and harmful content, but could also implicate news websites with below the line comments – should be concluded by the end of this year. Impress advocated for our publishers to be exempted from Ofcom oversight on the basis that they are already well-regulated, and to ensure bad faith actors could not pose as news organisations and undermine the professionalism and credibility of the sector.

Publishers regulated by Impress will benefit from automatic exemption under the new law. We expect the Government to apply the same common sense when the Digital Markets Unit is given powers to redress the balance between platforms and publishers, should the Digital Markets Bill become law.

Additionally, after years of threats, the Conservative Government is determined to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act in its upcoming Media Bill – the only incentive in law for news publishers to be regulated and one of the few legal protections for Impress-regulated titles from vexatious legal attacks such as SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

In thinking about the ways laws, regulation and policy can best protect publishers’ operating conditions and freedom of expression, I hope to be in dialogue with publishers, policymaker and communities about the way forward. In the interim we are keeping an ear to the ground on the most pressing issues affecting journalism, whether it be unlocking the revenue model for independent media, the opportunities and challenges of generative AI, and, of course, the ongoing perils of SLAPPs, particularly against investigative journalism.

We will continue to robustly defend regulated publishers, even as existing legal protections are hollowed out and will continue to provide you with further updates on media policy throughout the year.

Following the recent launch of our new website and our revised Standards Code we will soon be launching a consultation into our Arbitration Scheme. Importantly, no Impress publisher has ever been successfully sued in the courts, in part because our media law arbitration scheme – the first of its kind to be recognised in the UK – works to triage and prevent claims reaching the costly and time-consuming route of full-scale litigation.

That does not mean we are not alive to the concerns of those publishers and claimants who have been through the arbitration process, and hope the consultation will provide clarity, flexibility and reduce costs even further. Together I hope we can and will continue to build a better self-regulatory system for journalism.

I recognise that making the case for news that can be trusted is not a solo effort but something done through collaboration. Impress has attended industry conferences and events to promote that vision, and is building up its catalogue of support through partnerships with key industry stakeholders. To that end, I’m pleased that this month we have committed to partnerships with Legitimate, and the Independent Media Association. We are always on the look out for more organisations to partner with so do get in touch!

Finally, during my first two months as CEO, my focus has been building out our new senior management team alongside setting the vision and strategy for the organisation. I know everyone working for Impress has a passion for journalism and its democratic and community-building function, so I am very pleased to welcome Catherine Campbell (Regulatory Services Manager) and Thomas Barlow (Business Manager) to Impress. We hope to have some more new team announcements very soon – so keep your eyes peeled!

About Impress 

Impress is a champion for news that can be trusted. We are here to make sure news providers can publish with integrity; and the public can engage in an ever-changing media landscape with confidence. We set the highest regulatory standards for news, offer education to help people make informed choices and provide resolution when disputes arise. 

Media enquiries

Louie Chandler: louie@impressorg.com / 02033076778