Strong public support for press regulatory reform

This is an updated version of a previous press release

There is strong support for the press regulatory system and the way in which the British newspaper industry is regulated according to opinion poll conducted for the Media Standards Trust, conducted by Ipsos MORI.

The poll revealed public support for:

An independent self-regulatory body

A majority, 52%, of the public want the press regulated by an independent self-regulatory run by those independent of the newspaper industry vs only 8% who want a newspaper industry complaints body set up and run by the newspaper industry, as at present, with 17% saying they believe a regulatory body set up by the British government would be best.

Monitoring compliance and investigation more important than mediation

Nearly three in four people, 73%, take the view that the chief purpose of an independent regulatory body should be to monitor compliance with the code of practice on behalf of the public (48%) and conduct investigations where there is significant public concern about wrongdoing (25%) vs 12% who expect it should be to mediate complaints between newspapers and complainants – as now

An obligation to investigate, not wait for complaint

Almost half (48%) of the public think an independent self-regulatory body should be obliged to investigate where there is evidence of inaccuracy in newspapers vs 5% who think this body should wait for a complaint from someone directly referred to in an article

If the current system is to reflect public expectations there is need significant reform.

These findings come immediately prior to the publication of a DCMS select committee report on press self-regulation, and during ongoing allegations about phone-tapping at the News of the World.

The PCC has established a review of its governance. These findings come at the end of written public consultation (Monday 25 January). The review is a significant opportunity for the press to reach a consensus around the need for reform.

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust said: “This research shows there is a significant gap between public expectations of press self-regulation and what the current system can, and does, provide. It is critical that the PCC’s current governance review works out how best to meet this challenge.”

This research was commissioned by the Media Standards Trust as part of its ongoing review of press self-regulation. The Media Standards Trust published the first part of its review in February 2009 (‘A More Accountable Press’). The MST will be making a submission to the PCC’s review of governance with a series of recommendations for reform. The review of press self-regulation will continue through 2010.

Other research findings include:

Limited support for government regulation for British newspapers

Only 17% of the public were in favour of a government regulator as the best body to oversee a code of practice for journalists writing articles for British newspapers vs 52% who wanted an independent self-regulatory body set up and run by those independent of the newspaper industry

Self-regulation should represent the interest of the general public as well as the complainant

61% of people thought it was ‘very important’ that an independent press self-regulatory body governing British newspapers represented the interests of the general public, while 57% thought it very important it represent the interests of the complainant. 16% thought it was ‘very important’ that it represented the interests of the newspapers

Public support for financial penalties

85% of the public think it would be appropriate to impose fines on newspapers, in serious cases