An independent fact-checking organisation has been registered as a charity after its application was first denied in 2010 for not being "exclusively charitable".
Full Fact describes itself as an “independent fact-checking organisation” that provides “free tools, information and advice, so that anyone can check the claims we hear from politicians and the media”.
The charity is chaired by wealthy businessman and former Conservative Party donor Hon. Michael Samuel and boasts a trustee board packed full of members of the House of Lords. They are: Conservative peer Lord Richard Inglewood; Labour peer Lord David Lipsey; crossbench peer Baroness Julia Neuberger; and Liberal Democratic peer Lord John Sharkey.
Professor Jean Seaton, official historian of the BBC and Simon Briscoe, specialist adviser to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, complete the board of trustees.
The Charity Commission has announced that Full Fact can be entered onto the Register of Charities. The organisation’s first application for charity status was rejected in 2010, and the decision was upheld by the Charity Tribunal in 2011 due to the Charity Commission’s concerns over the terms “civic engagement” in its objects.
Full Fact made a further application in 2013 with revised objects based on the “advancement of education” which was approved in September of this year.
The Commission had been concerned that Full Fact would not meet requirements of education in charity law. To address this, the charity agreed to adopt objects that stated that the organisation has an “impartial, objective, balanced, and independent manner observing strict political neutrality”.
The tribunal had ruled that promoting civic responsibility and engagement are “not exclusively charitable”. It stated that it could not see how this could be demonstrated so that “an organisation would be beyond political controversy”.
In the full decision published yesterday, the Commission said it was “satisfied on the basis of the revisions to Full Fact’s governing document that it was established for exclusively charitable educational purposes for the public benefit and that its operational framework had within it a sufficiency of independence, impartiality and rigour for it to meet the requirements of education in charity law”.
The Commission said that Full Fact’s activities will be monitored. Within 18 months of registration, and every two years after that the trustees must appoint “a fit and proper person” to audit and review the public educational work of the charity.
Will Moy, director of Full Fact, said: “It’s important that we all have the information we need to make our minds up about the importance of public debate. Too often people are stuck choosing between blind faith and blind cynicism.
“Over the past four years, Full Fact has secured an award-winning role informing public debate, working with partners ranging from the Office for National Statistics to major broadcasters. We have earned their trust, and our users’, by having careful quality control in place, overseen by our cross-party board of trustees. Becoming a registered charity will bolster that work.
“The trustees are very pleased that we will be able to take up offers of volunteering and donations that were not previously available; and that the donors we rely on will now be able to gift aid their donations.”