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28 April 2022

Meredith: It’s In All Our Interests To Find A Sustainable Future For Journalism

A new regime which fosters genuine competition online and enables to publishers to reap the fair commercial rewards for their investment in journalism is long overdue, News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said today.

In a piece for The Times Red Box, Owen called for the Digital Markets Unit to be given the statutory powers it needs to do the job it was set up for “as a matter of urgency” in order to lay the foundations for a sustainable future for journalism.  

“Right now, journalists from news media outlets in the UK, and around the world, are in Ukraine reporting from the ground in extremely dangerous circumstances, to tell the story of brave souls who are fighting back against an insurgent Russia,” Owen said.

“The courage of these journalists and their commitment to reporting the facts could play a fundamental role in determining how the war ends.

News media outlets are required to have a presence on social platforms because they are the gateway to the internet for many and it is where much of their audience chooses to access news and information but the relationship between news publishers and the platforms is not a healthy one, Owen said.

“This imbalance poses a direct threat to the sustainability of journalism. A fact well documented by countless reviews, studies, and consultations – both in the UK and around the world.

“The problem is neither academic nor esoteric - if we want publishers to continue to be able to invest in the journalism that delivers so much benefit for our society, such as reporting from warzones, then we urgently need to find a solution,” Owen said.

The News Media Association and our members welcomed efforts by this government to tackle the problem when it set up the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) last year – a new regulator designed to get under the bonnet of the opaque digital advertising market and ensure news publishers get a fair deal.

This could be done through a code, similar to those being introduced around the world, including Australia, Canada, and now the EU, which would force the platforms to negotiate meaningful deals with publishers for use of their content, or face independent arbitration.     

Owen said: “I do not believe the tech platforms set out to destroy independent, trusted journalism. But they must accept the unintended consequences of their business models and should work with regulators and industry to ensure journalism has a sustainable future in a digital world. 

“The government has already gone some way towards achieving this objective with its very welcome commitment to strengthen the journalistic exemption in the scope of the Online Safety Bill.

“However, on the other side of the coin, a new regime which fosters genuine competition online and enables to publishers to reap the fair commercial rewards for their investment in journalism is long overdue.

“In a world where journalism and trusted sources of news and information are needed more than ever before, there is no reason to delay.”