Entertainment & Arts

Should newspapers be regulated like TV?

Should newspapers be regulated in the same way as broadcasters, who are required by law to give balanced coverage on every political issue?

The former Labour leader Lord Kinnock told the BBC he thought a balanced press "would be wonderful".

Some say that Labour lost the 1992 general election because of the influence of Rupert Murdoch's Sun.

On election day, its front page headline ran: "If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights."

Lord Kinnock told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the rules which require broadcasters to be balanced had produced current affairs and news broadcasting that was "second to none... in the whole world" and he saw no reason why they should not be applied to the press.

"If we could ensure there wasn't a political predetermination, to the extent of prejudice, that newspaper proprietors seek to infect others with and secure deference to, we would live in a much freer country."

John Humphrys, who was interviewing him, expressed astonishment - and the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson reminded listeners of the historic fight to achieve a free press.

"For years, people fought for the freedom, first of pamphleteers and then of newspapers, to be able to express opinions in any way they wanted, free of censorship and of government control."

The former Home Secretary Jack Straw said he fundamentally disagreed with Lord Kinnock - and so did the current Labour leader Ed Miliband.

He told the BBC News Channel: "I understand why Neil is so angry - not least because of what happened in the 1992 election - but the broadcasters are in a different position for technical reasons, because there is not an unlimited amount of spectrum."

Mr Straw said it was precisely because broadcasters' content was regulated that the print media and online media must not be regulated in the same way.

"That is the route to state control - we have to have a vital and free press where people can say whatever they want within the bounds of decency and defamation."

Mr Straw said he believed there should be some statutory framework for the Press Complaints Commission, or the body that replaced it - but the idea of a balanced press was "misconceived".