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22 July 2021

Whittingdale: Journalistic Content Must Be Protected

John Whittingdale has spoken of the importance of sustaining local media and curbing the dominance of the tech giants to allow journalism to flourish.

Speaking about the Online Safety Bill at the Oxford Media Convention this week, Mr Whittingdale commented on the platforms exercising censorship and the importance of protecting journalistic content online. 

He said: “We want to offer special protection to journalistic content. [Platforms] have to be transparent as to what their terms are, with due regard to freedom of expression and a duty of care. There is a core requirement that freedom of expression is properly regarded.”

Minister for media and data Mr Whittingdale also said: “Local newspapers are trusted more, because they are a part of their community, which is why sustaining local newspapers is so incredibly important.

“They are at the frontline in the war against the platforms and the challenges publishers are facing and we are doing what we can to support them.

“There are swathes of this country where local journalism has disappeared, and that is a massive threat to democracy. It means what is happening in council chambers, health and police authorities, is going unreported and unscrutinised.

“This is something I am really concerned about; this is why we created the Local Democracy Reporters Scheme with the BBC and we are looking to support new models that are emerging. Then you have what is happening at a national, and indeed international level, with the platforms, who are undermining the economics of the media.

"Our most important intervention is the creation of a Digital Markets Unit - it is a question of trying to ensure we have properly functioning competition.

“We have always had a very competitive media market. At the moment you have a small number of people controlling what people are able to access if they are getting their news online. This is the most important challenge.”