Almost three times as many people distrust the press regulation scheme put forward by some of the newspapers as trust it, according to a new opinion poll by the YouGov organisation. In March, a Royal Charter based on Leveson [pdf] was backed by all parties in Parliament and it is due to be approved by the Privy Council in June, but last month a group of news organisations published and have now petitioned the Privy Council [pdf]
When people were asked ‘How much confidence would you have in the alternative system proposed by newspaper publishers?’, 20% said they would have a fair amount or a lot of confidence, while 56% said they would have not much or none. The poll was commissioned by the Media Standards Trust.
The editors of the Mail and Telegraph papers and of the Murdoch press have published many articles encouraging the view that their version is better, but the poll shows they have not even convinced their own readers.
Readers of the Times were among the most opposed to the press scheme, with 73% saying they did not have confidence in it and just 20% in favour. At the Telegraph the ratio was two to one and at the Mail it was almost two to one. (At the Guardian, which has not endorsed the alternative charter scheme, the ratio was seven to one.)
And when people were asked whether, if the press bosses’ scheme was adopted, they thought there was a risk of a repeat of practices such as phone hacking and intrusion, 73% said they saw a risk and 9% did not.
The survey also sought people’s views on whether they thought that the newspaper they tended to read most should join a regulator set up under the charter scheme approved by Parliament: 52% said they wanted their paper to join and 10% did not. Again, Times readers showed a very strong preference for joining, by a ratio of almost seven to one.
The poll also clearly showed that people want to see the regulator wielding real power, with 76% in favour of it having the authority to direct a paper to print a correction or apology on the same page as the offending article – even if that meant a correction on the front page. Under the press draft scheme, the regulator would not have this power.
And 52% said they wanted the regulator to offer a fast, low-cost arbitration service (as Lord Justice Leveson recommended they must), against 18% who did not. The press scheme leaves the provision of such a service in doubt.
People had mixed views on urgency, with 38% saying it should be signed off this month (as was expected before last week’s deferral) and 37% saying it ‘should be delayed until agreement is reached with newspapers’. On this point a high figure – 25% – didn’t know which they preferred.
Brian Cathcart is director of Hacked Off. He tweets at @BrianCathcart.