Figures in a new poll reveal that there is overwhelming public support for action to confront the unaccountable power of media proprietors in the UK. 74 per cent believe that, in order to own a UK newspaper, radio station or TV channel, companies should be based in the UK and pay full UK tax while 61 per cent are in favour of compulsory rules (such as independent editorial boards) in order to limit the influence of owners over editorial output. 71 per cent believe there should be controls on media ownership including a substantial minority, 41 per cent, who think that media ownership rules should be strengthened by setting fixed limits on the amount of media any one organisation could own.
With weeks to go before the General Election, the Media Reform Coalition is determined to ensure that media ownership should find its place on the political agenda. The poll provides clear evidence that the British public is concerned about potential abuses of power by large media organisations who continue to shape which issues are discussed and which are not.
This follows a statement calling for political parties to make manifesto commitments on media ownership reform which has been signed by approximately 1500 people including journalists, celebrities, academics and campaigners including John Cleese, Frankie Boyle, Polly Toynbee, Nick Davies and George Monbiot.
When people were asked whether they would support a levy on the profits of social media and Pay TV companies to fund new providers of investigative and local journalism, 51 per cent agreed with only 9 per cent disagreeing. Following the resignation of the Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator Peter Oborne in protest at what he saw as the skewing of editorial priorities by the Telegraph’s relationship with HSBC, 64 per cent of the public would support an inquiry into the relationship between news organisations and advertisers.
The poll of 1566 people was commissioned by the Media Reform Coalition and conducted by YouGov, a member of the British Polling Council which has polled for the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times, among other publications. It was carried out on 30/31 March.
Chris Bryant, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said: ‘The media play a central role in our national life which is why we will work to ensure that no one voice or person dominates the media industry. That kind of media dominance cannot be good for the country, or for the media.’
According to Des Freedman, chair of the Media Reform Coalition, the poll results show very clearly that there is a public appetite to deal with the root causes of the abuse of power that was demonstrated in the hacking inquiry. ‘Which political party will be bold enough to promise to change our ownership rules in order to make sure that no single media proprietor is able to dominate our media spaces? Which political party will call for levies to support genuine independent journalism and to foster a more diverse communications environment? The YouGov poll demonstrates that the public have lost faith in existing ownership rules and want something more robust to defend the public interest.’
The full poll results can be seen here: YouGovpoll