77% of the public can't be wrong twice, can they?

Posted: October 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm

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.

14 comments

  1. Fed up - reply

    There should be an independent regulatory body set up without a doubt, some in the press and their criminal assistants should not be allowed to get away with what they have been doing and some of the methods they have been using.

    What happens if they are forgiven by way of some unsurprisingly ‘underhanded decision’ to let them carry on as they are without a concern for what they have put some people through and how it has affected their lives and that of their family members?.

    They (the press) have had their chance to self regulate and we can see the mess that some of them have made of it, we would not like to see a repeat of these actions.

    The Leveson inquiry has cost millions and taken up much time so it is only right that we see an outcome that will be worth the while and worth the wait, it has been suggested that David Cameron can overturn any regulations he does not agree with, (what’s the point of it all then?)

    Don’t you dare Mr Cameron…..don’t you dare!

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  4. Susanna - reply

    It’s funny that we are told that 70% of the public want a privately run NHS. But when you ask people they don’t want that at all. Polls are as accurate as company sponsored randomised controlled trials, you ask careful questions that leave out the bits that don’t serve your purpose. It reflects really poorly on Demos and on Hacked Off that they quote that kind of thing. You can make a poll say anything.

    • Combo - reply

      Oh Susanna – I think you may be guilty of the very thing you complain of. You say “But when you ask people…” which is, de facto, a kind of poll.

      Whether or not we can rely on a poll outcome is dependent on what question is asked, to whom it is asked (the sample) and how that sample is selected. Asking your mates what they think may be a good question, but almost certainly a poor (non-representative) sample. Asking a carefully selected sample a biased question is just as misleading. The Sun reported an almost opposite outcome in a poll that they commissioned, where the question highlighted the involvement of ‘politicians’ – not the most popular group right now, so perhaps not surprising the a majority rejected this. So I would agree that it is incumbent on those offering poll evidence in support of their stance to give these details at least – and then we would be in a position to judge whether quoting ‘that kind of thing’ is justified.

    • Paul - reply

      Susanna

      You cite a valid methodological problem. However, you don’t seem interested in investigating this any further, preferring a straw-man argument which some segments of our press (and politicians) would be proud.

      As you haven’t asked the question, I will. Hacked Off, in the interests of transparency, will you please provide the list of questions asked and any associated script so that this point may be assessed.

  5. Frank Calllus - reply

    I struggle to understand how an independent regulator supported by legislation is a threat to press freedom – Is Ofcom a challenge to the independence of the BBC? If not then it would be preferable to have an independent regulator than the current havoc

  6. Sandy michie - reply

    Mr Cameron, listen to the public. You have totally misjudged the public feeling on this matter. The real victims have suffered enough. Your reluctance to support the leverson findings is another act of torture for the real Vistula. Please reconsider and admit you are wrong.

  7. Robin Hughes - reply

    Its time big news corporations realize they are not above the law and are accountable in court for any slander or lies they may publish.
    Laws already exist to bring prosecutions against these people but a cosy triangle of police news papers and politicians ensured this could not happen.
    David Cameron now needs to implement the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry and bring everyone responsible to justice.

  8. Mr Ron - reply

    In my online letter to my Tory MP I have made it clear that this parliament is now single-issue. I will vote for him at the next election if Leveson has been implemented. If not, I will choose another candidate who will make it happen. In a democracy, it is all we can do.

  9. David - reply

    This is the way I see things:

    Over the years different sections of the British press have emotionally abused and bullied people and they — to a great extent — keep on getting away with it.

    And each time the ABUSER promises that their hurtful behaviour will change, the pattern of abuse continues.

    The truth is that the ABUSER is not capable of changing their behaviour unless there is an intervening credible authority to treat the ABUSER’s condition, especially if the ABUSER has become locked into a pattern of ABUSE over an extended period of time.

    The press needs STRONG treatment which can only be made potent by a credible, independent, underpinning legal body.

    This is a struggle for human respect and decency.

  10. Tony Attridge - reply

    Everyone want’s this implimented, except cameron and his newspaper cronies. Do we live in a democracy or what?

  11. John - reply

    Sad but true, this is just another example of our politicians showing little or no interest in what we think or want from them. Yes dont vote for any of the top three political parties but in this case mabe the answer is to encourage every one we know to stop buying the products the press barons produce eg the news papers, magazines and tv packages. Not easy but then nothing ever is but think about it, if people dont buy the papers not only do they get influenced buy the paper but the owners loose their precious profits, win win.
    Cheers, John.

  12. phil pitchard - reply

    will never vote for the conservatives again they have no respect for the people,
    I hope the public will rember what camaron has done and judge him at the next election

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