There’s new evidence of a widening gulf between what the public wants to see following Leveson – and the preferred outcome of the newspapers themselves. A poll commissioned by the Carnegie Trust and the thinktank, Demos, has found that 77 per cent of the public want the PCC scrapped in favour of a new independent press regulator. This finding serves to confirm the key figure in the YouGov poll for Hacked Off and the Media Standards Trust, that 77 per cent of the public thought that newspaper owners and editors should no longer control the press complaints system. There was a consistent majority in favour of independent regulation across all three major political parties.
Also notable is the finding that 63% in the Carnegie/Demos poll felt that the public voice should be heard in establishing guidelines for the press after Lord Leveson publishes his recommendations. The irony is that with a few honourable exceptions, public opinion on this subject is being all but ignored. The Guardian wrote up both polls quite prominently and why not: 77% in favour of a major change in public policy is a pretty good story, the kind which is seldom thrown up by routine opinion polling. Yet the results were overlooked by the most of the mainstream news media.
It’s a pattern that tends to repeat whenever an inconvenient fact – or a story alleging or establishing wrongdoing in a particular newspaper – occurs. Last night, it emerged that newspapers belonging to Trinity Mirror are facing civil damages claims over alleged phone hacking from four individuals including the former England coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson. The story (though it did break late in the day), was conspicuously absent from most of the papers, even the second editions. Similarly, the news that the Daily Mail and the Mirror were found guilty of contempt of court for their coverage of the Levi Bellfield conviction and each fined £10,000 at the High Court yesterday did not travel far beyond BBC News Online and the Independent. (Compare this with last night’s excoriating Panorama exposing editorial failures at its BBC sister, Newsnight.)
Perhaps the most crucial question in the end is this: who will the politicians be more inclined to listen to? The general public, fed up with the failed, corrupt system of self-regulation – or the newspaper industry, a large part of which appears to be in denial about its own lengthening charge sheet.