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08 February 2018

Prime Minister Launches Review Into Online Platforms And Ways To Preserve UK Newspapers

Prime Minister Theresa May has launched a review into the digital supply chain, the impact of online platforms, and ways to preserve the future of high quality UK national and local newspapers.

Announcing the review during a speech in Manchester, the Prime Minister said the pressures on newspapers were “dangerous for democracy” as she pledged to ensure that publishers received a “fair share of advertisement revenue.”

“A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built and it must be preserved,” Mrs May said. “In recent years, especially in local journalism, we have seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms and fears for the future sustainability of high-quality journalism.”

“When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.”

In a leader this morning, The Times said: "Theresa May has said that the review would consider all approaches to revitalising the press. If the government wants to do its bit, it could start by curtailing the BBC’s damage to local newspapers. It could also discourage councils from printing their own pseudo-newspapers which use public money to price out competitors less sympathetic to the local authority’s message.

"Most important of all, it could abandon any attempt to impose another Leveson inquiry on the press and dispense with Impress, the body that is supporting state regulation when an adequate regulator has been created in the form of the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

"Democracies have already seen the emergence of an era in which false stories and rumours can influence elections, blacken reputations and create a mood of distrust and hostility right across society.

"That means having a reliable press that checks facts and exposes falsehoods and corruption is more important than ever. A free and vibrant press is not an adjunct to democracy but its lifeblood. As an advertising campaign for The Times once said, it needs an eye for a lie and a tooth for the truth."

In a press release, DCMS said 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.

A key focus of the review will be the local and regional press. 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 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, DCMS said. As well 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."