A YouGov poll commissioned by Hacked Off has found that most favour tougher press regulation and that four in ten feel press behaviour has worsened since the Leveson inquiry.
It also found that 53 per cent feel the Government should reject 21st Century Fox’s bid for Sky versus 14 per cent who thought it should be allowed.
YouGov quizzed 1,629 UK adults on 5 and 6 January last week.
On press regulation the question asked was as follows:
The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, which started in 2011 following revelations about phone-hacking and other abuses carried out by the press, made recommendations for reform of press regulation in November 2012. This reform has not yet been implemented. Generally speaking, would you say you are…
- 57 per cent said they were in favour tougher press regulation
- 5 per cent said they were in favour of less tough press regulation.
The question on confidence in newspaper industry-funded press regulator IPSO was phrased as follows:
The Leveson Report recommended a new system of press regulation involving an independent external check of the adequacy of any press self-regulator and argued that this would aim to prevent a repetition of the press abuses that led to the Leveson Inquiry. Many newspaper companies oppose this proposal and argue that an external auditor for the press self-regulator amounted to government interference in the free press. Instead, they set up and joined the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which is not subject to checking by an independent external body. How much confidence do you have in the system of press regulation established by the major newspaper publishers?
- 15 per cent said they have confidence in IPSO
- 59 per cent said they had little or no confidence in it.
On the question of press behaviour, the survey said:
Over the last four to five years, to what extent, if at all, do you think the behaviour of the national press has got better or worse?
- 14 per cent said it had got better
- 33 per cent said it was neither better or worse
- 40 per cent said it had got worse.
The consultation on whether to enact Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act closes at 5pm today. This law would compel newspapers to join a statute-backed press regulator by making them pay both sides’ costs in libel and privacy actions win or lose if they don’t.
The question on whether Section 40 should be enacted was phrased as follows:
The Government has announced it is consulting on whether to bring into force a new law which was recommended by the Leveson Report and enacted by Parliament, which would introduce a system of penalties for newspapers who do not join a regulator that is subject to external checks. The Government argues that they should have discretion over whether or not the law comes into force. Supporters of stronger regulation of the press argue that the introduction of the law should not be subject to Government discretion. Newspapers argue that the law is wrong in principle and should not be brought into force, and if necessary repealed. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?
- 27 per cent: The Government should have discretion as to whether to bring the law into force
- 25 per cent: No Government discretion, the law should be brought into force
- 10 per cent: The law should be repealed
- 34 per cent: Don’t know
- 4 per cent: Something else.
Asked what condition should be put on newspapers to join an independent press regulator, the answers were as follows:
- 43 per cent: Newspapers should be required by law to join an independent press regulator
- 7 per cent: Newspapers should be able to choose whether to join
- 3 per cent: Newspapers can choose, but get financial benefits in legal cases if they do
- 8 per cent: Newspapers can choose, but face financial penalties in legal cases if they don’t join
- 8 per cent: Newspapers can choose and gain benefits if they do, but face penalties if they don’t
- 30 per cent: Don’t know.
The survey found that 46 per cent think Leveson two should proceed versus ten per cent who think it should be cancelled.
This survey follows a YouGov poll by the News Media Association in December which found that press regulation was at the bottom of people’s list of priorities for the government.
It is also found that most think stories on Facebook should have the same level of regulation as newspapers and that only 4 per cent felt that press regulators should be funded by donations from wealth individuals (as is the case with Impress).
Hacked Off joint executive director Evan Harris said: “Despite a scaremongering and frequently dishonest campaign waged by the press over the last few weeks, public opinion remains solidly behind Leveson. The public sees no improvement in press behaviour and has no faith in the ability of newspapers to regulate themselves without independent scrutiny.
“Attempts by the industry to convince the public that its puppet regulator IPSO is an effective substitute have failed dismally: there is even less confidence in IPSO now than 18 months ago.
“On section 40 and Leveson two, the subjects of the Government’s consultation, the public’s preference is clear: commence section 40 or legislate for compulsory Leveson, and begin Leveson Two immediately.”
He added: “In a craven attempt to satisfy the corporate press, the Government offered the financial benefit of Section 40 without the punitive element which provides access to justice for claimants in its consultation. Embarrassingly for the Government, when asked, the public prefer the punitive element hands down – leaving the Government with no excuse for failing to commence Section 40 in full when this sham consultation ends.”
An overwhelming majority of news publishers has urged the Government to scrap Section 40 saying that it presents a serious threat to investigative journalism.