A new press regulator that will receive financial backing through a charity that last month won charitable registration at the charity tribunal has registered as a community interest company.
According to its website, Impress is "developing plans for press regulation which is independent of politicians and press owners, affordable for small publishers and websites, and accountable to the public", and has received donations from authors, journalists and philanthropists including Terry Gilliam, Ian McEwan, JK Rowling and Polly Toynbee. Impress is chaired by Walter Merricks, who was the first chief ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, and its seven-person board also includes Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking charity Ash.
Impress’s plans were given a boost last month when the Independent Press Regulation Trust won a charity tribunal appeal against the Charity Commission’s refusal to accept its registration. The trust has been set up to give financial and other support to a new press regulator that is compliant with the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry, and has identified Impress as a likely recipient of this support.
The IPRT is yet to be entered onto the commission’s register of charities and the commission might appeal the tribunal’s decision, but must do so within 42 days of 15 June, when the decision was published. A spokeswoman for the commission said a decision on this would be taken at the commission’s board meeting on 22 July.
As Impress is a CIC limited by guarantee rather than by share, its incorporation documents show, it cannot pay private dividends, which means any surpluses it makes will either be re-invested into the organisation or used to otherwise promote the CIC’s objects.
These objects are to "promote, for the benefit of the community, the integrity and freedom of the press and to encourage the highest ethical standards in news reporting and news publication" and to do so by acting as a Leveson-compliant regulator.
The constitution includes a clause that would allow it as a last resort to suspend its operation if the royal charter on press regulation set up after Leveson was to be amended to constrain press freedom.