Embargoed until 00:01 Monday 9th February 2009
PUBLIC SUPPORTS ACTION TO TACKLE PRESS INACCURACY AND INTRUSION, SAYS REPORT
According to a report published today by the Media Standards Trust (MST), an independent charity chaired by Sir David Bell, Chair of the Financial Times, the existing means of press self-regulation are incapable of dealing with the serious and growing threats to press standards and press freedom.
Journalists are under greater pressure than ever before and the situation has been made worse by the recession which has seen newsrooms cutting editorial resources. Some newspapers are also sacrificing standards in order to maintain sales, as seen in the inaccurate and in some cases defamatory reporting of the Madeleine McCann case.
Furthermore, research commissioned by the Media Standards Trust, carried out by YouGov, shows startling new levels of public cynicism about standards in the press with 75% of the public saying that ‘newspapers frequently publish stories they know are inaccurate’, and only 7% saying they trust national newspapers to behave responsibly – a lower trust score even than banks. There is strong support for greater government intervention to protect privacy (60% of the public are calling for this), while almost three quarters of respondents (73%) would like the government to do more to correct inaccuracies in the media.
The Report is published just as Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee begins its inquiry into press standards and shortly before Baroness (Peta) Buscombe takes over from Sir Christopher Meyer as Chair of the Press Complaints Commission. This report, and a separate submission by the Media Standards Trust, have also been given to the CMS Select Committee.
Comments Sir David Bell, Chairman of the Media Standards Trust: “Our research has shown that the current system of press self-regulation is failing the public. It is fundamentally flawed and in urgent need of reform. We believe that the Press Complaints Commission is constitutionally and structurally unable to deal with these threats, particularly in the context of the rapidly changing new media environment. While almost all other regulators have been reformed to better protect the public interest in recent years, press self-regulation has remained virtually unchanged. The system needs to be brought into the 21st century or it runs the risk of greater government intervention and a further accumulation of legal privacy protection. This is not in the interests of the public or the press and has the potential to constrain press freedom.”
The report, produced by the Media Standards Trust, has been written in consultation with an independent non-partisan review group of twelve, chaired by Anthony Salz, Executive Vice Chairman of Rothschild, and includes working journalists and senior figures from civil society. For a full list of members see Notes to Editors below. The key findings include:
- Changes in the way that news is gathered, edited, packaged, published, marketed, delivered and consumed raise fundamental questions about news content regulation which the Press Complaints Commission has not yet sought to address
- Given the increased technical challenges and financial pressures that news organisations face, combined with the explosion of user-generatedcontent, there is an increased risk of inaccuracy that self-regulation is not structured to deal with
- There is evidence to suggest that the press’s need to capture public attention and maintain circulation is leading to greater levels of intrusion and invasion of privacy
- 70% of the public believe there are ‘far too many instances of people’s privacy being invaded’
- Trust in journalists is low and may be declining further. 70% of people think newspaper editors cannot be trusted to ensure their journalists act in the public interest
- The current system of self-regulation lacks transparency and accountability, has conflicting interests and is not equipped to meet the regulatory challenges now facing the press
- Lack of confidence in self-regulation is encouraging some people to go to the courts, creating a precedent-based privacy law which threatens to marginalise self-regulation and has the potential to constrain press freedom
Says Martin Moore, Director of the MST: “Without urgent reform we believe that self-regulation of the press will become increasingly ineffective at protecting the public or promoting good journalism and, without prompt action, there is real danger that it will become increasingly irrelevant. The purpose of the MST’s review is to highlight the reasons why reform of the system is necessary. We hope it will make a valuable contribution to the debate about the future of the press.”
The MST is in the process of collecting and assessing constructive ideas for regulatory reform. It will carry out extensive consultation and publish its recommendations later in 2009. It invites all contributions (via www.mediastandardstrust.org).
Note to editors
About the MST
The Media Standards Trust is an independent registered charity which fosters high standards in the news media on behalf of the public and public interest. It does this through a combination of research, debate and key initiatives. Chaired by Sir David Bell (Chair of the Financial Times), the Trust is governed by a board of trustees Board members include: Deputy Chair Julia Middleton (CEO, Common Purpose); Sir Cyril Chantler (Chairman, King’s Fund); Sir Robert Worcester (Founder, MORI); Robert Peston (Business Editor, BBC); William Davies (Goldsmiths College, London); Roger Graef (Films of Record); Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; The Right Reverend Stephen Platten (Bishop of Wakefield); Geraint Talfan Davies (Chair, Institute of Welsh Affairs); Anthony Salz (Executive Vice Chairman, Rothschild); Sue Stapely (solicitor, Quiller Consultants/Sue Stapely Consulting); Amelia Fawcett (Chairman, Pensions First); Albert Scardino (journalist, editor); Sir Philip Otton (retired judge); Mary-Ellen Barker (Thomson Reuters); Charles Manby (Goldman Sachs). The MST is funded by charitable donations from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Nuffield Foundation.
About the report
The report ‘A More Accountable Press – Part 1: The Need For Reform. Is self-regulation is failing the press and the public?’ has been written in consultation with an independent non-partisan review group composed of Martin Dickson, Deputy Editor, Financial Times; Lord Hastings, International Director, Corporate Citizenship, KPMG, House of Lords Select Committee on Communication; Richard Hooper, Chairman of the Independent Review of the Postal Services Sector, previously Deputy Chair of Ofcom; Simon Kelner, Managing Director and Editor in Chief, The Independent and Independent on Sunday; Dame Helena Kennedy QC; Dame Suzi Leather; Lord Lipsey, journalist and writer, previously at ASA and ITV; Kate Nash, Chair of the Disability Alliance, previously Chief Executive of Royal Association of Disability and Rehabilitation; Anthony Salz, Chair, Executive Vice Chairman, Rothschild, previously Senior Partner of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; David Seymour, journalist, previously Readers’ Editor, Daily Mirror; Ruth Wishart, journalist, The Herald and Lord Woolf, previously Lord Chief Justice. Each of their views is expressed in a personal capacity. Special advisors on the report include Professor Steven Barnett from Westminster University and Dr Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust.
About the YouGov Poll
Commissioned by the MST for this review, the You Gov poll was conducted in December 2008 among a general public sample of 2024 adults.