Local editors call on government to take action on tech giants

Posted on: October 6, 2020 by Claire Meadows

Local editors have called on the government to do more to curb the activities of tech giants amid warnings platforms are putting the future of local journalism “at risk”, it has been reported.  

Announced as part of the News Media Association’s (NMA) #JournalismMatters week, the NMA reports that a survey of local editors has found that 89% of respondents said the UK Government should act to make the tech giants pay for local journalism on their platforms. Such measures are currently being proposed by the Australian Government with Facebook threatening to prevent the sharing of news content on its platforms if the proposals come to fruition.  

Conducted last month, the survey also found that despite increased audiences and engagement during the Coronavirus pandemic, local editors fear that the tech giants still pose a profound threat to the sustainability of local journalism. Eighty-nine per cent of survey respondents agreed that the business practices of Google and Facebook continue to pose an existential threat to local journalism.

Responding to the survey, NMA deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson said: “Local editors have issued a stark warning to Government; act now to curb the tech giants or place the future of local journalism – which has served the public so effectively during the pandemic – at risk.”

Worryingly, the survey also found that the pandemic has had a damaging effect on press freedom and transparency. 49 per cent of local editors said that they had encountered instances of public bodies using coronavirus as an excuse to withhold information which should be in the public domain while 47 per cent said getting information from local public bodies such as local council, police or health authority had become more difficult during the pandemic.

The above comes despite local journalists reportedly acting as the first line of defence against coronavirus misinformation spread by others on social media. Seventy per cent of local editors said they or their journalists had actively corrected or counteracted misinformation about coronavirus spread by others on social media. The Society of Editors has previously highlighted the extensive problem of misinformation on social media platforms and recently called for cross-party support in promoting the work of the mainstream media as a means of countering misinformation.

  • As part of the SoE’s support for Journalism Matters Week, we have been speaking to our members in national, regional, local and broadcast journalism about what journalism means to them and why it matters. View our campaign page hereand follow us at EditorsUK to hear across the course of the week what they had to say.