SPOTLIGHT | Ed Procter, IMPRESS CEO: "IMPRESS supports publishers to improve, grow and become more accountable to their readers and the wider public"
Ed Procter first joined IMPRESS as COO in 2016, before taking over as IMPRESS CEO in February 2020. He is an established chief executive with a background in criminal justice, who joined IMPRESS following a nine-year tenure leading the development of Sport Resolutions into the premier independent arbiter of sport disputes in the United Kingdom.
In this IMPRESS Spotlight, Ed spoke to our Communications and Engagement Manager Clara Aguirre about what first drew him to the world of press regulation, becoming CEO during a global pandemic, and the future of IMPRESS and the journalism industry.
> What inspired you to first join IMPRESS?
I was CEO of Sport Resolutions’, the UK’s sport specialist arbitration body, for nine years and I was looking to try something new which built on that experience. I saw the transformative effect that independent arbitration had on the integrity and effective governance of sport and I saw parallels between the doping and child abuse scandals in sport and the hacking and privacy scandals that were reported in the Leveson Inquiry. I saw that the integrity of journalism had suffered because of poor regulation and wanted to try to do something positive about it.
> How would you describe the journey IMPRESS has been on since you first joined the organisation?
It’s been a journey of continued progression in my view, in the face of short-sighted protectionism by some parts of the industry. IMPRESS is a 20-year project: we are five years down that road, still going strong, with an increasing network of regulated publications, and there’s lots more to do.
> What’s the most rewarding aspect of being IMPRESS CEO?
> What was it like to become CEO of IMPRESS during lockdown?
It’s been tough not to get out and about to meet our various stakeholders from publishers, to platforms, policy makers and members of the public. I did have a short window before lockdown struck in March 2020 and managed to travel to Southport to talk to local publishers, students and members of the public. Zoom has become a big part of my life and the IMPRESS staff, board and regulatory committees continue business as normal on a remote basis.
In some ways lockdown has made it easier to get hold of people because most of us have been stuck at home. I’ve given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on religion and the media by zoom from my living room, introduced our annual Trust in Journalism Conference to 700 delegates from the spare bedroom, caught up with Twitter, Facebook’s Oversight Board and TikTok from my dining room and have met with DCMS officials about online safety regulations from my kitchen. It will be great to continue those conversations in person when its safe to do so.
> How have you coped on a personal level?
Like for so many, it has obviously been difficult not seeing family and friends this past year. Personally, I’ve tried to keep myself active by running, cycling and dog walking most days and it’s been nice to avoid packed trains and to explore my local area in Reading. I do miss going to the new Tottenham stadium to watch my football team play, although given their form of late, that might have been a blessing in disguise. Also, as a lover of all things Italian, I’m hoping our postponed family trip to Puglia can go ahead as soon as restrictions ease. I now feel ready to get back to a more normal way of life and to take forward the exciting plans we have at IMPRESS face-to-face, as soon as it’s safe to do so.
> Why should publishers join IMPRESS?
To improve, grow and to become more accountable to their readers and the wider public. IMPRESS helps publishers to raise standards and engage in more ethical journalism by professionalising operations, reducing risk and increasing skills.
> How does the public benefit from approved regulation?
Approved regulation provides the public with a guarantee that IMPRESS (and other press regulators who may in future meet the standards of approved regulation) operates independently and effectively on behalf of the public. This means that politicians, the press industry and commercial interests have absolutely no say or influence over how we operate. I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. Regulation that is controlled by an industry to protect its own interests, really damages the integrity of that industry and public trust in it.
> What does the next 5 years look like for the journalism industry and the regulatory landscape for the media in the UK?
Much of this will depend on regulations and settlements between the social media platforms that increasingly control the distribution of journalism and dominate the advertising market, and producers of journalism. A real danger is that big tech does deals with big media and that high-quality, well-regulated independent and community media lose out. This would be disastrous for democracy and representation of different interests and perspectives in the media. I expect the number of national newspapers to decline. The strongest will become international media brands like the New York Times and the Guardian have become. I expect to see a growth in bottom-up community and special interest journalism with new, more sustainable business models becoming to emerge.
I would predict that regulation will struggle to keep up with technical innovation and that the regulatory landscape will become more confusing for consumers as boundaries between type of media continue to converge. We must strive for collaboration between regulators to bring about clear information and paths to accountability for the benefit of readers and the wider public.
> How will IMPRESS continue to support the public and publishers as the industry develops and adapts into the future?
By focussing on preventative measures: supporting publishers to do better journalism and improving the public’s understanding and media literacy about ethical journalism practices. We’ll also be looking at how we can speed up systems of independent redress to ensure that they are fit for purpose in a faster moving digital world.
Ed Procter (Chief Executive Officer) joined IMPRESS as Chief Operating Officer in 2016. He is an established chief executive who over a nine-year period led the development of Sport Resolutions into the premier independent arbiter of sport disputes in the United Kingdom. He previously held senior leadership positions at the Legal Services Commission and Sport England. Earlier in his career he worked in criminal justice and the newspaper and advertising industries.