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Big beasts ignore Merricks’ critique

Man who heads press regulator laments govern­ment’s ‘deferential’ attitude towards media giants – and faces questions over funding from Max Mosley

22 February, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Walter Merricks (left) and Max Mosley

WALTER Merricks, an old Camden hand, delivered a key speech on Monday which appears to have gone unreported by his nemesis – the Daily Mail.

Merricks, who founded the Law Centre in Kentish Town – the first in the UK – in the early 1970s, then went on to become the government’s No 1 Financial Ombudsman, now heads Impress, the first press regulator recognised by the government following the Leveson inquiry into the media.

But hanging over Impress looms the shadow of Max Mosley, the millionaire, virtually the sole funder of Impress, who is taking some newspapers, including the Daily Mail, to court for repeating an orgy story online in an attempt to smear him – and Impress by association.

Merricks’ talk at City University was on publishing news in the digital age.

He lamented the govern­ment’s “deferential” attitude towards the “big beasts” in the media, who were opposed to any form of state regulation.

But he welcomed Theresa May’s recent pledge of a review into the media and the “sustainability” of local weeklies.

Apart from Impress, the other regulatory body, to which the majority of the big dailies belong – with the exception of the Financial Times and the Guardian – is called Ipso.
But this has not received government recognition.

Impress is also under fire from the body representing the regional press, News Media Association. They accuse it of being unrepresentative of the media on the grounds that most of its members are either small websites or small “community” publications, with low annual turnovers.

Merricks said there were signs larger companies were beginning to join Impress, and announced that a new member of its board was David Leigh, a professor at City University, and an old hand at the Guardian as an investigative reporter.

Then the name that no one wanted to mention came up – the name of Max Mosley.

Someone asked whether other sources of funding could be found for Impress – other than that of Mosley.

Merricks replied that he was seeking a greater “diversity” of funding and disclosed he was attempting to patch up his spat with News Media Association. He revealed he had sent them a letter this week seeking a meeting to sort things out.


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