As publishers' Royal Charter goes out to consultation, survey suggests public lack confidence in industry plan

A majority of members of the public do not have confidence in the rival press regulation Royal Charter put forward by the newspaper industry, according to an opinion poll.

The poll also found substantial public support for the regulator having power to force newspapers to print front-page apologies. And it suggested that there is significant public support for delaying the creation of a new press regulation regime until an agreement has been found with the newspaper industry.

The YouGov poll was commissioned by the Media Standards Trust, which is a supporter of the campaign for press reform championed by Hacked Off.

The poll of 1,851 UK adults carried out on 1-2 May asked them the following:

In March, a new system of press regulation, based on Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, was agreed by the three political parties and by Parliament, and was backed by representatives of some of the  victims of press abuses.

A number of major newspaper publishers have said they oppose the new system of regulation and have proposed their own alternative system.

How much confidence would you have in the alternative system proposed by newspaper publishers?

Some 56 per cent of respondents said they had not much confidence or no confidence at all, while 20 per cent said they would have at least fair amount of confidence in such a system. Some 25 per cent said 'don’t know'.

On Friday the Government announced that the rival press regulation Royal Charter put forward by press owners body Pressbof would be put out to consultation until 24 May (details here on how to take part in that consultation). A final decision on press regulation is then expected from the Government towards the end of next month.

The survey also asked members of the public about the issue of a low-cost libel arbitration service being included as part of the proposed new regulator.

While the cross-party Royal Charter makes such an arbitrator compulsory, the industry plan makes it optional because of concerns about extra claims being made against the regional press.

The poll asked:

The system of regulation agreed in March specified that newspapers who sign up to the  regulator MUST set up a fast, low cost arbitration system for people who feel they have  been libelled or harassed by the press to use as  an alternative to the courts. The alternative system put forward by the newspaper publishers includes a similar, but  OPTIONAL system.

While 52 per cent of respondents said the new regulation should have too provide a low-cost arbitration system, 18 per cent said it should be optional and 30 per cent said 'don’t know'.

The survey also asked about placement of corrections and apologies – another clear point of difference between the industry regulation plan and the one backed by the three main political parties and Hacked Off.

It asked:

To what extent would you support or oppose the following: A new regulator should be able to direct a newspaper to print a correction and/or an apology on the same page number as the original story if it reports something incorrectly, even if it is on the front page?

Some 76 per cent supported this, while 4 per cent opposed it and 10 per cent were ‘don’t know’.

Asked whether the new system of press regulation should be signed off on 15 May as planned – 38 per cent said yes, 37 per cent said there should be a delay until agreement has been reached with newspapers and 25 per cent said ‘don’t know’.

This is the latest in a series of polls paid for by opposing sides of the press regulation debate.

Last week a Survation survey funded by publishers via the Free Speech Network found that 76 per cent agreed there should be further consultation on the press regulation Royal Charter.

Full data from the Media Standards Trust YouGov poll available here.

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