Next week the Government closes its consultation into press regulation, after which culture secretary Karen Bradley will make a decision on implementing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
If implemented, Section 40 would require newspapers that are not members of the officially approved regulator Impress to pay all of the legal costs of those who take cases to court, whether they win or lose.
When the Leveson inquiry closed in November 2012, Lord Justice Leveson said that a regulator for the press should be funded by its members. IPSO, which is funded entirely by member publishers, was subsequently established. Impress, which is funded by Max Mosley, is the state-recognised regulator but it doesn't have any significant newspaper publishers signed up to it.
Now a YouGov poll, comissioned by the News Media Association (NMA), has found that only four per cent of people think a press regulator should be funded by donations from wealthy individuals and trusts (as with Impress), compared with 49% who believe it should be funded by the newspaper industry itself (the IPSO model).
Additionally, the public overwhelmingly believe the Government should be focusing its attention and resources on areas other than press regulation, which came at the bottom of a list of 16 issues people were asked to consider.
Just one per cent of respondents thought press regulation should be among the top four priorities, after airport expansion (two per cent). The top four priorities were Brexit (53%), health (48%), immigration and asylum (45%) and the economy (44%).
The poll also showed that more than two-thirds of people (68%) believe that news on social media platforms like Facebook, which are currently unregulated, should be subject at least to the same level or even tighter regulation than newspapers.
There is strong opposition to Section 40 from within the newspaper industry, including: The Sunday Times' warning that it would not have been able to conduct its legendary investigation into Lance Armstrong's doping if it had been enacted; Metro's publication of its first ever opinion piece, telling its readers the law will "shackle this country's press and leave nobody to expose scandals ranging from Rotherham sex grooming cover-up to MP's expenses"; The Sun's editor Tony Gallagher saying that being part of a state-sponsored regulator would give "MPs power and the whip hand over the press", yet the consequences of not being a member "offends all principles of natural justice"; and IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses' view that Section 40 "could destroy media freedom in this country".
Commenting on YouGov's findings, Lynne Anderson, the NMA's deputy chief executive, said: "This survey demonstrates conclusively that a regulatory regime led by Impress – which is completely reliant upon funding from one wealthy individual, Max Mosley – cannot command the confidence of the public.
"IPSO is funded in its entirety by its member national, regional and local newspaper publishers which is the funding model the public want and expect from an industry which is committed to robust self-regulation.
"It is also abundantly clear from the poll that there is absolutely no public appetite for further activity from the Government in this area – such as the reopening of the Leveson Inquiry – when there are other much more pressing priorities at hand."
Source: News Media Association
by Jessie Sampson