The former president of the FIA, Max Mosley, is bankrolling an alternative press regulator, it has been revealed.
Impress, set up over a year ago, said on Wednesday it will accept donations of £3.8 million to cover the first four years of expenditure, which will come almost exclusively from The Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust.
Mr Mosley has campaigned for press reform since 2008 when he received £60,000 in damages from the News of the World, after the tabloid falsely accused him of taking part in a "Nazi orgy".
The regulator also revealed it has applied for official recognition under the Royal Charter and has 13 publishers signed up as members. Currently, none of these are national titles.
In a lecture given at the London School of Economics on Wednesday, Walter Merricks, Impress' chair, admitted it was an “unusual self-regulator” due to its funding.
Most regulators are either funded publicly, (like the Food Standard Agency), or from fees from the bodies it regulates, (like the gambling Commission).
Impress said, despite establishing itself using funding from donors, it would not “be beholden to anyone”.
The regulator said it would work in tandem with the Independent Press Regulation Trust, a charity which would act as “buffer” between any donor from which it receives funds, operating at “arm’s length” from the body.
The funding agreement Impress have in place with the Trust guarantees the regulator funding of £950,000 a year for at least four years.
JK Rowling is also mentioned by Mr Merricks as a donor contributing to the regulator. Ms Rowling has also called for stricter press regulation and is a member of Hacked Off – a campaign group for UK press reform.
Mr Merricks said: “Some like JK Rowling and Max Mosley, have the reason and the resources to support decent standards of journalism and we are grateful to them for helping to get Impress of the ground."
Impress is yet to gain official recognition and The Press Recognition Panel will assess whether Impress meets the Leveson criteria set out in the Royal Charter, which recommended ‘voluntary, independent self-regulation’
Impress offers an alternative to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), set up over a year ago, which regulates most national and regional newspapers and magazines. IPSO is funded by its members.
Executive director of the Society of Editors, Bob Satchwell, said it was an interesting “philanthropic gesture” for Mr Mosley to “fund an organisation which will not regulate any of the newspapers that were at the heart of criticism in recent years,” the Press Gazette reports.