On 8 July a group of leading newspaper proprietors unveiled the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), their fourth attempt in two years at designing a replacement for the failed Press Complaints Commission.
Today they have their answer, as once again a reputable opinion poll has shown that the vast majority of the public simply will not trust the big press companies to run a system of regulation on their own terms.
The poll by YouGov, which also conducts polls for the Sunday Times and the Sun, was commissioned by the Media Standards Trust and carried out ten days after the IPSO announcement.
It found that 68% of respondents said they would not have confidence in a system of press regulation established by the major newspaper publishers. This was against 21% who said they would have confidence in such a regulator, and 10 per cent of don't knows.
That figure of 68% represents a jump since the same question was posed by YouGov in a poll last May. Back then - before plans for IPSO were announced - the figure for those saying they would not have confidence was 56%.
Other returns in the latest poll confirm the strength of public opinion on this:
- 82% believed that if the big newspaper companies went ahead with their own regulator there would be a risk that unethical practices such as phone hacking and intrusion would be repeated. (This is up from 73% in May)
- 63% said that implementation of the Leveson recommendations should have happened already, eight months on from the judge's report, or should happen now. Only 16% support a delay for more negotiations
- when asked whether they preferred the Parliamentary Royal Charter on the press to the draft Charter put forward by the proprietors' body PressBoF, there was a four to one (50% to 13%) majority in favour of the former.
These findings will come as a crushing blow to the hopes of the leading proprietors that they can evade the new regulation arrangements proposed in the Leveson Report and backed by all parties in Parliament on 18 March.
Papers such as the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail did their utmost to convince their readers that IPSO represented a bright new future, many of them repeating unjustified claims that it would deliver what Lord Justice Leveson had recommended.
But it has made no difference. Instead the public determination not to accept a regulatory scheme of the industry's choice has hardened.
In broad terms this majority view has been constant since July 2011 and the outrage over the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemails. Poll after poll has showed a clear public demand for a break with the historic pattern of self-regulatory failure.
The country simply does not trust the press to handle complaints fairly or uphold journalistic standards effectively, without the independent checks proposed by Lord Justice Leveson. It wants to see, at the very least, a future press self-regulator undergoing regular inspections by an external body to ensure it meets basic standards of independence and effectiveness.
This is what Parliament's Royal Charter will deliver. It sets up the independent inspection body to check the regulator - scrupulously free of industry and political influence - and it lays down the standards required to protect the public from outrages of the kind that made the Leveson Inquiry necessary. It also poses no threat to freedom of speech.