Poll: Press regulation not priority

The Society of Editors said it would send 'a terrible signal to emerging democracies around the world' if the free press was to end

The Society of Editors said it would send 'a terrible signal to emerging democracies around the world' if the free press was to end

First published in National News © by

Voters do not think press regulation is a priority for their MPs, believing that their time would be better spent on issues such as the economy, a survey has found.

Only 0.5% of those surveyed thought regulation of the press was a priority, while 90% did not even list press regulation as a "top 10" issue, the poll by Survation, on behalf of the Free Speech Network, found.

More than 70% of people believed there was no need for new laws or state regulation of the press.

Two-thirds of those questioned said they were proud of Britain's standing in the world as a model of press freedom and free speech. Two-thirds wanted to see libel laws amended to get actions settled more cheaply and 91% supported free speech.

"The British people are clear that they want a free press and free speech," Society of Editors chairman Bob Satchwell said. "We agree. This is why the industry supports a new system, independent of both government and the newspaper industry to ensure the highest standards in the press without undermining its capacity to hold people such as politicians to account.

"We have established a free press in this country over 300 years - we don't want to reverse this trend. It would send a terrible signal to emerging democracies around the world if this were to end. How can we encourage the freedom of the press and free speech abroad if we are threatening it at home?"

Survation surveyed 1,002 members of the public between November 12 and November 13.

The Free Speech Network is made up of UK, European and world print and online publishers interested in protecting freedom of expression.

Commenting on the poll, Professor Brian Cathcart, director of campaign group Hacked Off, said: "Nothing in this survey contradicts recent findings in polls by YouGov and the Carnegie Trust that more than 75% of the public want an independent press regulator and two thirds do not trust the press to police themselves.

"The newspaper industry's poll also offers new evidence that a clear majority of the public are well aware of the failures of the self-regulatory system. Asked what the biggest failing was that the phone hacking scandal has uncovered, 55% said 'the failings of journalists to adequately adhere to their own codes of practice'. This finding supports Hacked Off's campaign for a new, effective press regulator, independent of both politicians and the industry itself."

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