How the Free Speech Network spun a poll against press regulation


by Tim Fenton    
9:58 am - November 20th 2012

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The so-called Free Speech Network, which managed an own goal at its launch by turning away someone of potentially inconvenient thought, went on to commission a poll for its efforts.

To no surprise at all, it has yielded results that will give the organisation much comfort. But a quick look at the questions asked shows that the way these have been selected and structured is the main reason.

After the softening up process of the first few questions, which satisfy the “It’s not as important as unemployment or inflation” get-out, we get to the ‘serious’ part with Question 8.

The choice? It’s between “I am proud that the United Kingdom is regarded by some around the world as a model of press freedoms and freedom of speech” on the one hand, and “It is not relevant or important to me what other countries think of the UK’s press freedoms or freedom of speech”.

This has sweet stuff all to do with what’s being discussed.

Then comes Question 9. : “Recently there has been much criticism of press practices such as phone hacking, making payments to public officials, hacking of computers and contempt of court. These practices are all illegal, and some people believe that the solution to press misbehaviour is make sure the existing law is fully enforced and that journalists that commit such offences are prosecuted for doing so. Other people believe that the law needs to be changed to add further regulations to the behaviour of journalists.
Q9. What should the government focus on to stop bad practices and misbehaviour by the media?

The choices are “
Ensure that the existing laws are actually enforced in full to bring perpetrators to account, or
Add new laws and regulations” and “
Don’t know”.
This is brilliantly loaded: note how “perpetrators” are already being “[brought] to account” before the alternative is asked, and that is worded to assert that it means “more laws”, rather than a different regulatory structure.

Not surprisingly, this gives the required answer: 70.7% of respondents chose the first option. But this is contradicted by the response to Question 14, “How soon should the Government be aiming to introduce any new system of press regulation?” which elicits a 77.7% total saying this should be within one year.

And the biscuit is well and truly taken by Question 19: “There has been a lot of discussion about journalistic standards in the recent past. Which issue has concerned you most?” to which the choices are phone hacking, payments to Police and public officials … and allegations of a cover-up over Jimmy Savile! Seriously!!

To no surprise at all, this total non sequitur gets over 50%, proving that if you load the question the right way, the public will indeed “Look over there”. This is an outrageously desperate exercise.

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About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments


I have to wonder why I still bother coming to this site, when obviously what debate there is, goes on at Twitter.

it shocks me that someone commissioned a poll where the questions were designed to give them the answer they wanted and furthermore

The subtle subtext of this post appears to be that free speech is not a worthy thing to desire.

4. Chaise Guevara

@ phil

“The subtle subtext of this post appears to be that free speech is not a worthy thing to desire.”

Why?

Always a good idea to disect polling work like this. Otherwise it is too easy for people to overlook just how weak such practice is.

I’m not a fan of regulating the press myself. I think making editors and proprietors criminally accountable for the actions of those who generate their stories – would be plenty enough regulation. That, and requiring apologies for lies and mistakes that match in size and pagination the original lie or mistake.

Trying to regulate specific activities beyond that gets very unweidly and of course must maintain some sense of “public interest” test as seen with the CPS, which doesn’t try reporters for breaking the law to bring stories of real public interest. (Such as the hacking story, which was utterly illegal but with no public interest in prosecution)

The tabloids bastion of free speech is the subtext of the poll. What a joke, they are all owned by billionaires, who can possibly trust a billionaire to genuinely respect freedom of speech, especially if your statements – or objective, scientifically based truth contradict the prejudiced and practices of said billionaires!

Free speech network
I have a horrible feeling Nasty Nick Cohen and his pet monkey Martin Bright must be involved in this organisation.
These organisations don’t mind the unacceptable as long as it is from the western right but I doubt they accept the voices of the eastern right or left

8. douglas clark

Err…

I don’t care much for the free speech network. However, your right to free speech ought to be intrinsic to the society you live in. It is your right to free speech, not that of newspapers that I would wish to defend. In other words the corporate right to free speech is a side issue to your right to free speech.

It is a deliberately confused issue.

In my opinion.

Tim

This is a smear piece on lobby group, nothing more than flimflam.

The only important question to be asked is whether what can be published in the press should be regulated by the state.
If we are to assume,from the stance you are taking here, that you believe that it should, then you are a dangerous idiot.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Jason Brickley

    How the Free Speech Network spun a poll against press regulation http://t.co/SbcVdZsi

  2. wappingate.com

    How the Free Speech Network spun a poll against press regulation http://t.co/kMPVrqFg #notw #wappingate

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – How the Free Speech Network spun a poll against press regulation http://t.co/fjNBu5DO

  4. Steve Rose

    How the Free Speech Network spun a poll against press regulation | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/y7zVqCJt via @libcon

  5. Thom Beckett

    Interesting post on how the ‘Free Speech Network’ spun a press regulation question to get the response they wanted: http://t.co/p50Ev1Ca

  6. Richard

    How the Free Speech Network spun a poll against press regulation | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/qJ18zBLP via @libcon





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