THE UK PRESS CARD AUTHORITY Ltd (UKPCA) manages a voluntary scheme for issuing press/media credentials – the UK Press Card – to professional newsgatherers working in the UK. It is wholly owned and collectively controlled by the UK’s major media organisations, industry associations, trades unions, and professional associations. It is the only card issued in the UK to be recognised by the police and other emergency services, government departments and many private organisations.
The scheme is managed through 19 gatekeepers. These are national organisations which represent or employ journalists and other media personnel (employed or freelance) whose work involves gathering material for editorial publication in all media — print, broadcast and electronic.
Each gatekeeper issues the UK Press Card to its members, or to those whom it or its members employ. The gatekeeper is responsible to the UKPCA Board for ensuring that the conditions of the scheme are adhered to.
The UK Press Card is produced by a single card contractor who holds a database of all holders. The card itself is produced to the highest modern standards and its features are described on a poster which can be downloaded from this website. Cards have both security and verification features and every card has to be renewed at least every two years.
The definition of eligibility is that a newsgatherer must be “wholly or significantly concerned professionally as a media worker who needs to identify himself or herself in public”. In simple terms, s/he must earn most or all of his/her income on the front-line of the news business. The principal occupations covered include reporters and writers, photographers, TV camera operators and crews and other broadcasting workers such as producers, researchers, dispatch riders and drivers.
The scheme was launched in 1992 by all the major industry bodies with the help of the Metropolitan Police. The aims were to end of the proliferation of press cards; and agreement on a universally recognised card (bearing the word PRESS. The card is formally recognised by all police forces in the UK, by the Ministry of Justice and de facto, by other public bodies.
The UKPCA is governed by a Board of Directors representing every gatekeeper (each of whom holds one of the company’s 19 shares). There are also a secretary and independent chair. It has a Gatekeepers’ Committee (in practice a mirror of the board) which oversees the operation of the scheme, but does not itself issue cards. The committee can direct applicants to the appropriate Gatekeeper if necessary.
Occasionally new Gatekeepers have been admitted to the scheme. The strict criteria include That the newsgathers they represent cannot acquire the UK Press Card any other way. That they have not been set up primarily to issue accreditation.