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16 January 2020

Morgan: Promoting High Quality Journalism A 'Big Priority'

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan has said that promoting the sustainability of high-quality journalism and public service broadcasting “is a big priority for me and my department.”

Delivering the keynote speech at the Tech Talent Charter, Baroness Morgan outlined her vision to deliver a thriving economy which fosters competition and empowers consumers, while defending key principles such as freedom of expression.  

She said that helping users learn how to use digital technologies in “a secure and responsible way and differentiate fact from fiction” would be crucial in combating disinformation and extremism “which threatens our democracy and civil society.”

She said: “Part of the answer lies in promoting the sustainability of high-quality journalism and public service broadcasting, and this is a big priority for me and my department. We are also developing a media literacy strategy, which we will publish this summer, as part of our programme of work on the Online Harms White Paper.”

She added: “As well as our ground-breaking work on online harms and digital competition, over the coming months, we will work to:

  • Foster fair, transparent and ethical online advertising, so this market delivers the right outcomes for businesses and consumers.
  • Develop our National Data Strategy, so we can fully and responsibly unlock the power of data, for people and organisations across the UK.
  • And set out our response to the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism in the digital age.

“Critically, we will work to make sure our approach to digital governance and regulation is coherent and is able to adapt as technologies evolve.”

Ms Morgan said the Government was looking at a regulatory framework for the digital sector which would drive growth and stimulate innovation while empowering consumers, making companies responsible and empowering Government to “act where they need to, to promote good and protect from harm.”

She said: “Although I am optimistic about the power of technology, it cannot be denied that its widespread adoption has brought new threats. If we cannot be confident that digital technologies are safe and secure, then we will lose the trust that is the lifeblood of any digital economy.

“And we will discourage the adoption of the new technologies that are vital if we are to truly unleash Britain’s potential.”

She said the Government’s Online Harms White Paper showed its commitment to “tackling public policy concerns in a way that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, like freedom of expression.”

“Reaching a shared understanding of what it means to be a digital citizen in a free and open society - the rights and the responsibilities - will always be a difficult endeavour but it is one that we must tackle.

Following publication of the White Paper last year, the News Media Association called for a “robust and comprehensive” exemption  on the face of any legislation for news media publishers and their content, wherever published, from the new regulatory framework for the tech giants, designed to crackdown on online harms. 

In its manifesto, the Conservative Party said it would legislate to “make the UK the safest place in the world to be online” but “at the same time defending freedom of expression and in particular recognising and defending the invaluable role of a free press.”

The Queen’s Speech background notes said that the Government will continue its commitment to develop an Online Harms Bill but says that it “wants to do this in a proportionate way, ensuring that freedom of expression is upheld and promoted online, and that the value of a free and independent press is preserved.” It will prepare legislation to implement the final policy in response to its earlier consultation.

Baroness Morgan said: “If we are to truly spread the benefits of digital we also need competitive digital markets. So that companies with new services to offer can compete fairly.

“And so that consumers get better products and content, cheaper prices and greater choice and transparency.

“Over the coming months we will build on the important work of the Furman Review, the Cairncross Review and the current CMA market study to support this.”