The Prime Minister has announced a review into Britain’s printed press which will look into funding models to ensure the continuation of high-quality national and regional journalism. A move that has been described by the Society of Editors’ executive director as a strong message that the Government “appreciates an independent media.”
Theresa May warned in a speech in Manchester that the disappearance of hundreds of local titles was “dangerous for our democracy.”
The review will examine different business models for quality journalism and also analyse how the supply chain for digital advertising operates.
Birmingham Press Club director Marc Reeves (pictured), editor-in-chief of Trinity Mirror’s Birmingham Mail, said:
“I will watch with interest to see how this develops. I am cautious about the State thinking it should get involved in the very industry that is there to hold it to account, but this could nevertheless be a good thing.
“I am also concerned about the terms of reference - people talk about the ‘decline of newspapers’ and often completely ignore our growth online. We reach more than 50% of Brummies every week through our online channels, an audience equivalent to our print circulation back in the so-called heyday.”
Mrs May warned: “Good quality journalism provides us with the information and analysis we need to inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion. It is a huge force for good. But in recent years, especially in local journalism, we’ve seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms and fears for the future sustainability of high-quality journalism.
“Over 200 local papers have closed since 2005. This is dangerous for our democracy. When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.
“So to address this challenge to our public debate, we will launch a review to examine the sustainability of our national and local press. It will look at the different business models for high-quality journalism. And because digital advertising is now one of the essential sources of revenue for newspapers, the review will analyse how that supply chain operates.
“It will consider whether the creators of content are getting their fair share of advertisement revenue. And it will recommend whether industry or Government-led solutions can help improve the sustainability of the sector for the future.
“A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built, and it must be preserved,” added the Prime Minister.
Culture secretary Matt Hancock added: “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.”
Both sides of the industry have welcomed the review. David Dinsmore, chair of trade body the News Media Association, said: “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.”
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, added: “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.”
National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Quality journalism is at the heart of a healthy democracy – as Theresa May has rightly acknowledged today. It helps to keep people informed, combats fake news, holds those in power to account and promotes community engagement.
“The media industry is in crisis today, more than 300 local newspapers have been closed in the past decade and more than half of all parliamentary constituencies do not have a dedicated daily local newspaper.
“We have consistently highlighted the severity of this situation – our local communities deserve better. Hollowed-out shells of titles are no substitute for properly-resourced titles, with real investment in the provision of news and information that communities are crying out for.
“We therefore welcome the announcement of a review by the government, and the NUJ will fully engage in the process including the call for a panel of experts.”