Media Standards Trust response to Sunday Telegraph articles

 

Two articles published in the Sunday Telegraph by Andrew Gilligan (31st March and 7th April) contained statements about the Media Standards Trust that are incorrect. They also contained assertions about the 2009 MST report A More Accountable Press which do not fairly represent the report. These points are addressed in turn below.

 

Statements in 31st March Sunday Telegraph article, ‘The Truth about Hacked Off’s Media Coup’ (published here)

The article states: “The Media Standards Trust’s director, Martin Moore, is also a director of Hacked Off.”

Martin Moore is not a director of Hacked Off. The list of directors for Hacked Off can be obtained from Companies House or from the Hacked Off website.

The article also states: “In late 2011 [director of journalism at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, John] Lloyd, the Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off convened the “Media Regulation Round Table,” the group which drew up what has now become the royal charter.”

Hacked Off was not one of the conveners of the Media Regulation Round Table. The round table was convened by the Reuters Institute and the Media Standards Trust.

The original article stated that the Media Standards Trust launched Full Fact.

This is not correct and was acknowledged to be incorrect by The Sunday Telegraph, who have now changed the article to read “The Media Standards Trust has also shared core funders and directors with Full Fact”. The only person to have served on both Boards is Baroness Neuberger who stepped down from the MST in 2007 and did not join Full Fact until 2009.

 

Claims in 31st March article and 7th April article (published here) regarding our 2009 report A More Accountable Press

The articles also make several claims about our representation of polling data in our 2009 report.

The article of 31st March states that in 2009 the Media Standards Trust ‘declared the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) unfit for purpose – claiming, without much evidence, that its “ineffectiveness” had reduced trust in the media’. In fact, MORI, which has polled on the question every year since 1999, finds that trust in journalists has risen slightly over time.’

The article of 7th April revisits the 2009 report, stating that ‘the Media Standards Trust has repeatedly claimed that the “failure” of press self-regulation has meant that “public trust in journalism, already low, was declining further”. In fact, the only long-run polling of public trust in journalism, by Mori, shows the opposite – a fairly consistent, if modest, rise, little affected by the hacking scandal. Indeed, and perhaps surprisingly, according to the Mori poll for 2013, public trust in journalism stands at the second-highest level it has known since the polling began in 1983.’

These comments do not fairly represent the report.

The 2009 report was an assessment of the existing system of press self-regulation. It concluded that press self-regulation was “insufficiently effective, largely unaccountable, opaque, and failing to reflect the radically changed media environment”. These conclusions, not accepted at the time, are now generally accepted. In the Leveson Report, the judge wrote that the MST 2009 report was “a measured and punctilious critique of the PCC, justified on the then available evidence and made more prescient by subsequent events” (Vol.4, p1,539).

The question of public trust in journalism was not central to the report’s conclusions. It was referred to in a brief section on pages 8-9. This is what the report said:

 

3.1 Public trust in the press, already very low, may be declining further

Journalism is not held in high esteem by the public. In figures from Ipsos MORI charting trust in the professions to tell the truth since 1983, journalists come at or near the bottom of a group of 16 professions. The most recent Ipsos MORI poll (2006) shows them at the bottom of the list, retaining the trust of only 19% of the general public.

However, not only does public trust in journalism remain low, there is evidence that trust may be falling further.

A YouGov poll in March 2008 showed that 43% of the public trust journalists on ‘up- market’ newspapers (such as The Times, the Telegraph or The Guardian) to tell the truth. The equivalent figure is 18% for journalists on mid-market newspapers (such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express), and 15% for journalists on red top newspapers (such as the Daily Mirror and The Sun). By comparison 87% of people trust local doctors to tell the truth, 76% trust teachers and 71% trust local policemen.

Moreover, this poll shows not only low levels of trust, but a significant decline in trust in journalism over the last 5 years. In 2003, 65% of people trusted journalists on up-market papers to tell the truth. By March 2008 this had dropped to 43%. Over the same period the percentage of people who trust journalists on mid-market papers dropped from 36% to 18%. The figure for red top newspapers stayed close to the bottom of the table but did not decline further. Indeed it rose slightly, from 14% to 15% over this 5 year period.

This decline should be seen in the context of a general decline in trust for many professions. However, for journalists of up-market and mid-market papers, the decline has been faster than with other professions.

Of the 23 groups covered in the YouGov survey, seven cover journalists. Six of these performed worse than all other occupations covered by the poll.”

 

The YouGov poll was reproduced in Appendix 2 (p.38) of the report. The report was based on figures available at the time.

If you would like to read the 2009 report in full, you can do so here.