Survey reveals demand for public role in drawing up Press regulation

THE GENERAL public want a greater say in Press regulation, not least because of a lack of trust in newspapers, a survey has revealed.

Says the survey – conducted by the think tank, Demos, and involving 2,000 people – just one in ten of those surveyed expect The Sun to behave ethically, while the corresponding figure for the Daily Mirror is 12 per cent. The highest ethical approval rating was given to the Financial Times, at 55 per cent.

The survey, conducted for policy influencers, Carnegie UK Trust, also showed that 71 per cent of people would like an independent press regulator, while 63 per cent want to see a public role in setting guidelines for media behaviour. Seventy-seven per cent also want an independent regulator involved in setting guidelines. Says the report: “The public can no longer be excluded from defining ‘the public interest’ in media regulation.”

The survey has been published ahead of the recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards, which was set up to investigative media ethics following allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World, which closed last year.

The survey showed that few people are likely to support publication of a story that has been gained by illegal means and just 29 per cent of those surveyed supported the publication of a ‘kiss and tell’ story about a celebrity using information gained through interviewing friends and family. Respondents were most likely to support stories about people in positions of power and responsibility.

However, some 63 per cent of respondents were incorrect in saying that Westminster is already involved in setting guidelines on what is or is not in the public interest. When asked whether newspapers should be forced to give prior notification of publication to the subjects of stories, 61 per cent supported this.

In a media release issued by Carnegie UK Trust, its chief executive, Martyn Evans, is quoted, as saying: “The nation was outraged by the intrusion into the lives of ‘normal’ people, like Milly Dowler’s family during the phone hacking scandal, and an overwhelming sense that the Press have, in some cases, gone too far. But this national debate has been taking place without information about where normal people would draw the line between what is and is not acceptable in the name of the ‘public interest’.”

As part of the research, participants were given 90 different scenarios, exploring public attitudes towards free speech, privacy an investigative journalism. Only 15 of these had a majority of the public approving publication.

For example, 40 per cent of those surveyed said stories should never be published if they contain information gained through illegal entry into premises.

For more, read here.