Our free and fearless press prides itself on its ability to keep on selling its product day in, day out to the great British public. Sales may be in decline, but the Fourth Estate still enjoys the trust of its readers - or so it believes. Anyone suggesting otherwise is routinely ignored, a fate that has befallen the findings of the EBU’s “Trust In Media 2016” report, which most of the papers have declined to report upon.
Why should that be? Ah well. The EBU (European Broadcasting Union, or Union européenne de radio-télévision if you prefer), the body that brings us the Eurovision Song Contest among other delights, has found that, while the United Kingdom records a net positive score for both “Trust in Radio” and “Trust in Television” - that’s across all Radio and TV channels and offerings - the picture is less rosy when it comes to the press.
Although the UK’s trust of Radio and TV is very close to the average for all 28 EU member states, it is not for the press. And the “net trust rating” makes for grim reading. Although the EU28 average shows a negative trust score for the press, this at -7% is as nothing compared to the whopping -51% for the UK. Worse, the UK scores the worst trust rating for the press, by a whole 12 points - next to worst trust being in, er, Serbia.
Yes folks, even Turkey, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia mistrust their press less than we do. The press in much-derided France gets a positive score. So does Albania. And at the top of the pile when it comes to trust in the press is Finland. Not far behind are the Netherlands and Denmark. These are further reasons why our free and fearless press doesn’t want to talk about the EBU findings.
Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark occupy three of the top four places in the World Press Freedom Index for 2016 (the UK is in 38th place, behind Jamaica, Namibia, Uruguay, Surinam, Ghana, Samoa, Chile, Cape Verde, Belize and Tonga). As Private Eye magazine might have put it, “I wonder if the two are in any way connected? I think we should be told”. And there’s another inconvenient fact our press aren’t telling us.
Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark have rather more credible, and rather more independent, press regulation than the UK. That in Denmark is backed up, in theory, by judicial enforcement, although recourse to this has not yet been necessary. Finland’s press regulation is backed up by a strict privacy law. Yet we are told that such things would mean a loss of press freedom. Well, maybe, just maybe, our press got this one wrong.
Or rather, they call it the way they do because it best serves those running it. To admit that countries that do what Lord Justice Leveson hinted at have a more trusted press would be to admit they were wrong to slag off the Royal Charter, IMPRESS, Hacked Off and anyone supporting them. Better to avoid a tricky issue and not bother reporting on it at all.
I give you our free and fearless press, and their reprise of Millwall FC’s best known chant: No-one likes us, we don’t care. Because we don’t. And neither do they.