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IMPRESS announces free arbitration for all publishers

Walter Merricks CBE, Chair of IMPRESS, has today announced a major extension of the press regulator’s free arbitration service for dealing with libel and other areas of media law.

When the IMPRESS/Chartered Institute of Arbitrators service was launched, one arbitration per year was free for small publishers with turnover below £1m. Now, arbitration will be free for all publishers of any size and there will be no limit on the maximum number of subsidised arbitrations.

Speaking after the regulator’s Annual General Meeting in London today, Walter Merricks CBE said:

‘Arbitration is at the heart of the IMPRESS scheme. By providing low-cost arbitration, we can improve access to justice for everyone. Originally, we were able to provide arbitration free of cost to claimants and small publishers. We can now extend that offer to any publishers which join IMPRESS, no matter how large or small. From now on, any media law dispute involving these publishers can be resolved without the cost and complexity of a High Court hearing.’

In his Inquiry Report published in November 2012, Lord Justice Leveson recommended that a press regulator should provide an arbitration service to resolve media law disputes, which can otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. These costs can exert a chilling effect on news publishers, and can stop all but the wealthiest claimants from pursuing an action for libel or breach of privacy.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media & Sport has endorsed the need for low cost arbitration, as has the Government. IMPRESS is the only regulator to provide a Leveson-compliant arbitration scheme which is free of cost for both claimants and publishers.

IMPRESS has also today published its Annual Report for the period 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017, the regulator’s first full year of operation. During this period, IMPRESS received 39 complaint referrals, accepted one request for arbitration and issued three advisory notices.

Already, in the first half of the 2017-18 period, IMPRESS has received 82 complaint referrals. So far, one complaint has been the subject of a formal adjudication by the regulator and one arbitration has been concluded.

48 publishers had applied to join IMPRESS by the end of the last financial year (31 March 2017). By the time the Annual Report went to press (31 August 2017), this figure had grown to 77 publishers, responsible between them for 123 publications.

Merricks said: ‘We are delighted to see that IMPRESS continues to grow steadily, as more and more publishers see the legal, commercial and reputational benefits of independent self-regulation.’

Notes:

  • IMPRESS offers an independent arbitration service for legal claims of defamation, breach of confidence, misuse of private information, malicious falsehood and harassment against publishers. The IMPRESS arbitration service is administered by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), the world-leading provider of arbitration services and a registered charity.
  • Claims can be made by individuals or organisations against any publisher regulated by IMPRESS. The arbitration scheme is designed to be a simple and straightforward alternative to going to court. The arbitrator’s fees of up to £3,500 per arbitration are paid by IMPRESS so that the scheme is free to access for claimants and publishers.
  • Both claimants and publishers are free to instruct lawyers at their own expense but recoverable legal costs are capped at £3,000.
  • IMPRESS was approved by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) as an independent and effective regulator on 25 October 2016.
  • IMPRESS is blazing a trail for a fairer, better kind of press regulation, building a new era of trust between the press and the public.
  • IMPRESS is independent of the newspaper industry and the Government, so that the way we deal with complaints is fair and impartial.