British want press watchdog with bite

Nov. 28, 2012 at 12:54 PM
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LONDON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The British public wants an independent media watchdog with legal teeth and would be angry if nothing is done to rein in the press, a poll indicated.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they favor an independent press regulator in Britain established by law, results of a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Media Standards Trust found.

Lord Justice Brian Henry Leveson is to release a report on British media standards Thursday.

The poll indicated Prime Minister David Cameron could face voter disfavor if he doesn't do something to corral the British press, rocked by a phone-hacking scandal that shuttered one publication, led multiple arrests of journalists and public officials, and charges against several former editorial staffers of the defunct News of the World, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Tuesday, 86 members of Parliament and former Cabinet ministers wrote a letter to The Guardian in which they called on government officials to oppose statutory regulation.

The letter says the status quo is not an option, but added, "No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing -- abolished in Britain in 1695. State licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution."

Sixty percent said they believe Cameron should implement Leveson's recommendations, while 79 percent said they prefer legislation to create an independent press regulator. Just over 80 percent said national newspapers should be legally required to participate in the new system.

The poll's sample size, date of sample and margin of error were not provided.

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