The Society of Editors has welcomed the announcement that the Prime Minister has launched a review into how to preserve the future of high quality national and local newspapers in the UK.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors, said the review was welcome as it underscored the government’s recognition of the importance and high standards of the British press.
“At a time when it seems the Press both locally and nationally is under extreme pressures from a number of sources, it is gratifying that the Prime Minister recognises that it plays a vital role in the health of the nation,” said Murray.
“No serious democracy that wishes to hold its government and those in high office to account can permit the erosion of a free and vibrant media.
“All too often it seems we hear the siren voices of some in power who wish for the press or some sections to be muted. This, coupled with economic pressures present as the industry copes with the challenges of a new digital age has meant there are genuine fears that freedom of expression itself is at risk.
“I’m delighted therefore that the government is sending a strong message that it appreciates an independent media in this country and is seeking ways to protect it for future generations.”
The Prime Minister’s announcement comes at a time when the media industry, and the printed press in particular faces a series of challenges.
The UK has always benefited from a strong, well established and diverse press sector. However, over the past decade the way in which people consume news has been transformed.
Many UK newspapers have a strong online presence but falling print circulations and changes to advertising trends have caused the press sector to experience declining revenues. Latest figures show that around two thirds of local authority areas don’t have a daily local newspaper.
The review will investigate the overall health of the news media, looking at the range of news available and how the press is adapting to the new digital market – including the role and impact of online platforms such as Facebook and Google, and the digital advertising supply chain.
Department of Culture, Media and Sport Secretary of State Matt Hancock commented: “Robust high quality journalism is important for public debate and scrutiny – but as print circulations decline and more readers move online, the press faces an uncertain future.
“This review will look at the sustainability of the national, regional and local press, how content creators are appropriately rewarded for their online creations, and ensure that the UK has a vibrant and independent and plural free press as one of the cornerstones of our public debate.”
A key focus of the review will be the local and regional press, who face an uncertain future. The review will also assess the operation of the digital advertising supply chain including funding flows and its role in creating or reducing value for publishers. It will also look at ‘clickbait’ and low quality news and if there is more that can be done to tackle this issue and undermine any commercial incentives associated with it.
Also within the review’s remit will be an examination of how data created or owned by news publications is collected and distributed by online platforms.
A panel of experts will be appointed in the coming months to lead the review.
As welll as identifying challenges, the review will make recommendations on what industry and government action can be taken, with a final report expected in early 2019.
David Dinsmore, News Media Association chairman, said: “The NMA welcomes this announcement today on behalf of the national, regional and local news media industry.
“This review acknowledges the importance of journalism in a democratic society, the vital role that the press takes in holding the powerful to account and producing verified news which informs the public.
“Viable business models must be found that ensure a wide variety of media are able to have a long and healthy future.
“Through digital platforms, news content is more widely consumed than ever before but the revenues to sustain the investment in that quality content are challenged. This review on a sustainable future is very welcome.”