IMPRESS at the Westminster Media Forum: Jonathan Heawood gave details about the Independent Publishers Taskforce

Jonathan Heawood was invited to speak at the Westminster Media Forum, as part of a panel on 'The way forward for tackling the issues - public understanding, technological countermeasures and the impact of the Cairncross Review'.

He launched the Independent Publishers Taskforce, recently launched by IMPRESS in May 2019, to build on the Cairncross Review recommendations. The Taskforce is made up of IMPRESS members and an advisory group of external stakeholders. 

At the panel, Jonathan described the growth of the IMPRESS publishers network since the foundation of the regulator:

Since we were founded, 70 publishers have joined IMPRESS from across the UK. There’s about 128 publications between them, all kinds of journalism, the Port Talbot MagNet was one of our first members and it’s an example of a kind of publication that characterises a chunk of our membership but there are others doing political journalism, special interests serving particular ethnic or religious communities or doing really quite hard hitting investigative journalism.

He then focused on the recommendations made by the Cairncross Review, and the main needs and challenges of the independent news sector:

Many of our members are particularly interested in charitable status if they’re doing community news on a non-profit basis, there’s a pretty good case for saying they’re not achieving any private or political benefit from that, they’re doing it for the good of the community. Funding for local public interest news and funding for innovation are very popular as well. We see the Institute of Public Interest News [recommendation number 9 of the Cairncross Review] as having two primary functions: (1) to get that money together (...) and make sure that it’s really having the impact that we want and it’s not really just being used for corporate PR; (2) and also be a centre of excellence and good practice for public interest news.

About the Independent Publishers Taskforce, launched with an initial funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, he added:

It enables us to get some of the members together to start drilling down from those pretty top level recommendations. And in particular to try to address two questions, which have come up today [at the Westminster Media Forum] (...) How are we going to allocate that, how are politicians and politically appointed officials going to have any role in allocating that funding in a way that does not compromise the freedom of the press?  (...) And then, secondly how do you direct the money in such a way that it goes to publications that really are demonstrably committed to high standards of journalism?

Jonathan Heawood closed his words by describing who is part of this Independent Publishers Taskforce:

We want to involve other people in this process so we’ve got the network of publishers at the heart of the process but around that we’re building an advisory group, anyone here who would like to know more about that, do come and talk to us afterwards. Civil society organisations, philanthropists, academics, tech, people with money and people with ideas. We’re also looking internationally.


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