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Just one person in 20 supports press regulation funded by rich and powerful

Research conducted by YouGov shows just four per cent support the way new watchdog Impress is paid for

A new poll has shown the public is hugely opposed to letting rich individuals fund press regulation.

Research conducted by YouGov shows just four per cent support the way new watchdog Impress is paid for.

Impress is backed by the mega-rich former F1 chief Max Mosley.

Mr Mosley has campaigned on privacy issues after successfully suing the News of the World newspaper for printing pictures of him at an orgy with prostitutes.

“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,” said Lynne Anderson, deputy chief executive of the News Media Association, which represents national, regional and local news media.

A Government-funded quango gave Impress the status of ‘approved regulator’ last October - despite the group not being recognised by 90% of the press industry.

The majority of national newspapers, including the Birmingham Mail titles, are instead members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso).

Ipso is an independent body which is not backed by the Government and is fully funded by industry itself.

Today’s YouGov survey shows 49 per cent of people agree a press regulator should be paid for by newspapers rather than rich individuals.

“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,” Ms Anderson said.

The poll also shows people see press regulation as the least important issue facing the Government among 16 key topics for the year ahead.

Just 1 per cent of respondents thought press regulation should be among Ministers’ top four priorities this year.

Instead most people urged the Government to focus on Brexit (53 per cent), health (48 per cent), immigration and asylum (45 per cent) and the economy (44 per cent).

The survey comes with just a few days left of a crucial Government consultation into the future of the British press.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley is pondering whether to press ahead with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the British media, and whether to enforce Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which could leave papers open to costly libel actions.

Max Mosley

Under Section 40 newspapers could be forced to pay for all court costs in libel actions - even if they win.

There are fears that if Ms Bradley did bring in Section 40 it would leave papers pressurised into joining Impress to avoid being at risk of such exemplary damages.

“It is 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,” Ms Anderson said.

But speaking to the BBC yesterday, Mr Mosley warned he will continue to pour his millions into funding Impress “for a very long time”.

Explaining his support for Section 40 he said: “If a newspaper insists on the luxury of a high court hearing then they pay both sides.

“But if they go to the thing that’s the whole point of Section 40, which is the inexpensive arbitration between them and the claimant, then it costs nobody anything.

“And of course that’s hugely beneficial to small newspapers, local newspapers, because if somebody rich takes them on it’s very intimidating, whereas if they can say to the rich person, ‘if you have got the money to sue us that’s fine, but we insist on going to inexpensive arbitration’.

“If the rich individual refuses then he pays the costs of both sides. It seems to me eminently fair.”

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