Newspapers Accused of Keeping Readers in Dark on Press Regulation

Article excerpt

Media owners accused of using selective statistics to fight reform

Newspapers opposed to statutory regulation of the press are keeping their readers in the dark about public opinion on the issue by omitting unhelpful polling data from their reporting, a campaign group claims.

Hacked Off has pointed to several instances where newspapers have highlighted research findings favourable to self-regulation and ignored those supporting a state-created system of independent regulation, expected to be proposed by the Leveson Inquiry later this month.

The evidence comes from opinion polls commissioned by the newspapers themselves.

Over recent months, The Sun, the Daily Mail and other titles have run articles warning that MPs should not be allowed to legislate to end distortion and other misbehaviour, instead favouring a successor to the discredited Press Complaints Commission.

Claiming the industry is selectively reporting its own polling to give the impression that it enjoys the public's support, Hacked Off pointed to a Sun story on Thursday about its YouGov poll, headlined: "State-run watchdog 'will gag free press'".

The story stressed that 75 per cent said there was a risk that politicians would use a statutory system to silence papers, adding: "Only 36 per cent said media groups cannot be trusted to set up their own system as the 'behaviour of our press and journalists has gone too far'".

However, the paper neglected to mention less helpful data from the same poll - published later on the YouGov website - notably that 63 per cent did not trust newspapers and journalists to set up a fair system of regulation.

On 20 June, The Sun's sister paper, The Times, reported the finding of a Populus poll that 61 per cent agreed with the statement: "The Leveson inquiry has lost its way as a procession of politicians, journalists and celebrities have simply tried to defend themselves against one another's allegations".

Only 44 per cent of the public, it added, thought the inquiry would "result in a healthier, more arms-length relationship between politicians and the media".

The paper, also part of Rupert Murdoch's News International group, omitted to report another important finding from the poll: that the public believed the Leveson Inquiry was worthwhile.

Some 59 per cent of people agreed (and 27 per cent disagreed) that the inquiry "will lead to more effective regulation of the press offering better protection to members of the public against unwarranted intrusion into their private lives".

Hacked Off, which wants state-created independent regulation, says that only The Independent and The Guardian have publicised the key finding of its own YouGov research in October. …