Around half of the country thinks the UK media has a problem with racism, a new poll has revealed.
The survey of 2,000 people, carried out by the Compassion in Politics campaign group and Opinium, comes amid an explosive industry row after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex claimed sections of the UK press are bigoted.
The question asked: “Recently, as a result of some high profile news stories, some social commentators have been asking ‘Does the British press have a problem with racism?’ To what extent do you agree or disagree that the British media (newspapers, television etc.) has a problem with perpetrating racism?”
In response, 23% said they strongly agreed and 26% said they slightly agreed.
The polling follows the publication of a government-backed review of racial disparities, which prompted a backlash after it rejected claims the UK suffers from institutional racism.
Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics, told HuffPost UK: “The public aren’t fools. They know that there is clear evidence of racism amongst certain sections of the press and degrees of institutionalised racism and unconscious bias across the industry.
“If we are to have any hope of addressing the scourge of racism in this country then journalists and editors need to take responsibility for the tenor and substance of what they publish and say.
“At the moment, the flames of prejudice are too often fanned in ways that exacerbate hate and racism in society at large.”
She added: “Politics and the media have a symbiotic relationship. If we are going to have compassion in one we must have compassion in the other.
“Punch and Judy political conduct, as we see at PMQs, leads to coverage which plays into hate, vitriol, and antagonism – fuelling political divides across the country.
“That is why Compassion in Politics will soon be launching a new initiative, working with leading journalists, to put the values of compassion, inclusivity, and respect at the heart of the British media.
“In doing so we hope to strengthen our democracy, bridge a divided nation, and bring some decency to public debate.”
Following Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Society Of Editors, which has members in the UK across national, regional and local press, said in a statement it was “not acceptable” for the couple to make claims of racism in the press “without providing any supporting evidence”.
Bu the comments by the organisation’s executive director, Ian Murray, faced so much resistance from journalists that he was forced to step down from the role.
His assertion, which he went on to defend in a heated interview with Victoria Derbyshire on Tuesday, was fiercely criticised – not least by members of the SoE’s own board, who said they were “deeply angry” about the way they had been represented.
The SoE represents almost 400 members in senior positions across the UK media, several of whom have now publicly declared their opposition to Murray’s statement.
Award-winning journalist and Loose Women panellist Charlene White announced she has pulled out of hosting the Society of Editors’ National Press Awards.
Some 167 journalists of colour across the British media industry signed an open letter to say they “deplore and reject” the SoE’s statement.
Among a number of explosive revelations made in the interview, Harry said the couple had left the UK in “large part” due to racism and the treatment by a “bigoted” press.
He told Winfrey the media created a “toxic environment” of “control and fear”. “The UK is not bigoted, the UK press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids,” he added. “But unfortunately if the source of information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased, then that filters out to the rest of society.”