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".

Torin Douglas Article written by Torin Douglas Torin Douglas Former media correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    These comments are a sad indication of the level of political debate in the UK. This is not about the BBC or one man, it's about the equal and honest expression of ideas and reporting of facts. The press have made it impossible to have a debate, because they have "trained" us to reduce everything to gossip and anger. We need more intelligence, less tabloid! I'm all for regulation (left and right).

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Simple answer: yes they should. Do they have the right to publish slander daily, and to have a policy of political bias (left or right), and to make a business out of destroying the lives of anybody unfortunate enough to be in the public eye - almost every paper does these things. It's not news, it's propoganda and bullying. Free speech, but with responsibilities too. Regulation is the only way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Yes!. Regulation doesn't prevent free press. It means papers have to adhere to the same ethical standards/restrictions as television, rightly so for media. Papers don't have a right to be bias, and seeming all they write these days is opinion, a "journalist" can write anything about anyone and as long as the fabrication is plausible can often bypass liable laws. Plausible Opinion isn't Fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Given the pathological hatred for the BBC of the majority of posters on the site, I am amazed that these people bother to read the BBC News site at all.

    Can't they trust their newspapers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    >>>>Add your comment...Chris and Chantal
    People privacy should be paramount, and nobody should infinge this. Cameras everywhere, news from everywhere... what next?

    So if an MPs expenses' statement were stolen from Parliament and published, your sympathy would be entirely with the MP? There has to be a "public interest" defence for the press.


Comments 5 of 296



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