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Public overwhelmingly favours independent press regulation, underpinned by statute



A YouGov poll commissioned by the Media Standards Trust has found overwhelming public support for a new system of independent regulation, established by law.

Alongside several questions about Leveson, the survey put forward two key scenarios:

  • There should be an independent body, established by law, which deals with complaints and decides what sanctions there should be if journalists break agreed codes of conduct
  • Newspapers should establish their own body which deals with complaints and decides what sanctions there should be if journalists break agreed codes of conduct

The findings of the independent poll are compelling across age, gender, region, newspaper readership and voting intention.

  • 79% are in favour of an independent press regulator, established by law – against 9% who believe that newspapers should establish their own body
  • 82% agree that ‘it is no longer acceptable for newspaper owners and editors to control the system for dealing with complaints about press behaviour’
  • 86% believe that there is a risk (56% ‘a strong risk’) that if the press continue to regulate themselves, there will be a repeat of unethical and illegal practices

In the same poll the public clearly rejected a continuation of self-regulation, believing that, if the press keeps regulating itself, then there will be a recurrence of the type of malpractice revealed at the Leveson Inquiry. 70% of the public believes that editors cannot be trusted to ensure that their journalists act in the public interest.

Nor should national newspapers be able to opt out of the new system. 82% of respondents said that national newspapers should be obliged to join the new system by law.

When making his recommendation Lord Justice Leveson should, the poll finds, listen most to the victims of unethical press behaviour (60%), rather than to newspaper owners (3%) or politicians (2%).

The Government should implement his recommendations once they are published. 60% of the public believe this, with only 6% believing it should not.

These attitudes are consistent across supporters of all three main political parties. 80% of those who intend to vote Conservative at the next election support the creation of an independent body, established by law. This is echoed by Labour (81%) and Liberal Democrat (87%) supporters.

Some of those keen on a new independent system include the readers of the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, newspapers which have strongly criticised the Inquiry and the use of any legal backstop. 81% of Daily Mail readers support an independent body established by law. 93% of Daily Telegraph readers believe there is a risk of a repeat of the behaviour that prompted the setting up of the Leveson Inquiry, if the press retains the power to regulate itself.

These figures are consistent with earlier polls, and have not changed despite the significant amount of critical coverage of the Leveson Inquiry and trenchant opposition of most newspapers to any use of statute.

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, said, “The public are absolutely clear about what they want – an independent system whose independence is guaranteed in law. If editors and owners are once again in charge of the new system of the new system almost 9 out of 10 people think there’s a risk of the same illegal and unethical practices happening again”.

The poll YouGov/Media Standards Trust poll was conducted from 21st -23rd November 2012 amongst a large representative sample of the GB population (3,620 Adults).

Further reading:

A free press would be a  good idea

Freedom of expression is not the same as a freedom to mislead

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.