Press regulator IMPRESS has proposed six questions that UK news organisations can put to MPs and parliamentary candidates on matters related to media and journalism, ahead of the UK election on 4 July 2024. 

A sextet of questions

The initiative comes more than a decade after the Leveson Inquiry established issues with press practices and ethics, in the aftermath of the 2011 phone hacking scandal.

It ushered in Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, a controversial piece of legislation which has never been enforced, as it would require news publishers to pay claimants court costs, regardless of whether the outcome of the case, unless they were signed up to a state-backed regulator.

The UK government abandoned the policy in 2022, leaving behind a void for new incentives for publishers to take up independent press regulation.

This is where IMPRESS' six questions come in, to create wider debate about issues facing the UK news industry; press freedoms, misinformation, SLAPPs, media plurality and news literacy. They are as follows:

  1. How will you work to balance publisher’s right to freedom of expression with the public’s right to access justice if they are wronged? 
  2. Will you personally commit to improving transparency between the government and publishers, so the public can access information that is important to their lives?  
  3. What steps will you take to improve news literacy levels among the British public if you are elected?  
  4. How will you help to build a thriving, competitive media sector that welcomes innovation and new publishers?
  5. Now that the Online Safety Act has become law, what future steps do you plan to take to ensure younger generations are not exposed to damaging content or misinformation?
  6. How will you assist news outlets in diversifying income avenues and discovering incentives, in turn helping them move away from tactics such as clickbait? 

These questions are not just intended for journalists, but to anybody with an interest in media issues or better relationships between media companies and government.

The trust crisis

Another driving force for the initiative are the low levels of public trust towards UK news, says CEO Lexie Kirwana-Kirkconnell. She heard calls from the public to combat issues concerning misinformation and press transparency. 

Neither the Labour or Conservative parties have made any manifesto pledges regarding future policies with the media. Only the SNP and Liberal Democrats have briefly mentioned the future role of media in society during the early phases of their campaigns. 

A "profound scepticism from all sides of life about media and politicians" is something IMPRESS intends to change. Journalists and politicians are some of the least trusted professions in the UK.

"Meaningful reforms are necessary for people's trust in the media and politicians to grow,” she says, connecting the lack of faith that many citizens have in members of both occupations. 

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