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06 December 2018

Wright: Government Should Be ‘Enabler’ Of High Quality Journalism

Government should act as an “enabler” by creating the right conditions for high quality journalism and broadcasting to flourish, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has said.

Addressing the Paley Conference on 'Maintaining a healthy media sector in the digital age', Mr Wright said the Government faced a policy challenge posed by the pressures on news media and needed to “make sure that the structures are in place so news organisations can fairly monetise their content.”

The Cairncross Review would look at these important issues, he said, adding that a “difficult, challenging” news media was “essential to our democracy.”

Mr Wright said: “This proliferation of content is in many ways a good thing, but as content moves online it does make it harder to get value from high quality journalism. UK newspaper circulations have halved since 2001, and local newspapers are finding it especially hard to adapt.

“We have seen over 200 titles close since 2005 in the UK and I know that there have been similar issues in the USA, where hundreds of local newspapers have had to either merge or close. This should concern us all. Newspapers help to bring together local voices and shine a light on important issues - in communities, in courtrooms, in council chambers and in state houses.

“And while specialist blogs and websites can sometimes fill the void, they might not have the time and resources to do the investigative journalism that can explain complex issues, provide new insight into national and international affairs and - dare I say it - hold the powerful to account.

“Lawmakers across the world need to see this as a policy challenge, and not simply a media challenge. And they need to make sure that the structures are in place so news organisations can fairly monetise their content.

“After all, media business are built on clear protections for intellectual property and its value, a principle shared by the UK and the US. Politicians might not always get the coverage we’d like. But we would do well to remember that a healthy media is the beating heart of any civil society.

“So the question of media sustainability is a particularly important one.”

He added: “Without a free and vibrant press we would be much less informed, less inspired and less able to hold those in power to account.

“And we see Government’s role as an enabler - creating the right conditions for high quality journalism and broadcasting to flourish.”