The press has, over the past few weeks, been running a hysterical anti-Leveson campaign based on the absurd “falsehood that press freedom is under threat from IMPRESS” and a “vindictive tycoon”. Although “post truth” journalism is generally fact free, the press has seized on an opinion poll (commissioned by its industry body, the NMA) which, it claims, lends support to its anti-IMPRESS argument.
Opinion polls on press regulation do not normally feature in the newspapers – for the simple reason that they show consistent public support for stronger press regulation. But a recent poll has been seized on by the massed ranks of the press anti-Leveson brigade for one piece of information it provides.
Respondents were asked how a press regulator should be funded. The responses were
- By the newspaper industry itself – 49%
- By the government – 25%
- By donations from wealthy individuals and trusts – 4%
This, according to the Deputy Chief Executive of the NMA
“demonstrates conclusively that a regulatory regime led by Impress – which is completely reliant upon funding from one wealthy individual, Max Mosley, cannot command the confidence of the public”
This is patent nonsense. What it shows is that a large percentage of the public believe that newspapers should pay for their own regulation. This was the preference expressed by the Leveson report – as long as the regulator was independently approved (“recognised”) as effective and independent of its funders.
This is exactly what would happen if the newspapers joined Impress (or another recognised regulator). The charitable trust established by Max Mosley in his late son’s memory is funding – through a second, entirely independent, charity, to deliver demonstrable independence – the start-up costs of Impress until such time as it has a sufficient subscription income to meet its own running costs.
No question in the poll was asked about what should be done if the press refuses to fund an independent and effective regulator but, instead, sets up a body which it controls and which does no proper regulation. In those circumstances, the public would doubtless be very grateful to individuals and trusts which supported the establishment of a regulator in the public interest.
The Sun uses this poll to support yet another baseless attack on Impress and Max Mosley. For the sin of providing funds to a charity (which is, unlike the newspapers, subject to statutory regulation) Mr Mosley is pilloried as a “vindictive tycoon” and “odious millionaire”. This from a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch.
But, in contrast to Mr Murdoch who can – and does – influence what is written in his newspapers, and whose company exercises control of the appointments and rules of the sham regulator, IPSO, Mr Mosley has no influence whatever on the decisions taken by Impress. The public can be confident of this because its interests are protected by an independent regulator – the Charity Commission. There is no equivalent body protecting the public against abuse by the Sun, or to ensure IPSO is not controlled by those it regulates.
As the press has suddenly developed a fondness for opinion polls on press regulation they might like – in the interests of the freedom of expression which they so resolutely defend – to publish these recent poll results:
- Only 3% trust a regulator set up by the press
- Only 7% trust journalists at tabloid newspapers to tell the truth.
Or these poll results from 2015
- 59% of the public want further legislation to implement Leveson, or statutory regulation if the press reject it.
- 64% of the public agree that Leveson’s proposals were right or that he should have gone further
- 60% don’t have confidence in a regulator set up by the press with no oversight.
These polls results were not published by the press.