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04 February 2020

Government ‘Keen To Work With’ NMA Over Commonwealth Games Media Issues

The Government has said it is “keen to continue working with the News Media Association” over advertising and trading  restrictions for the Commonwealth Games to ensure that there will be no adverse impact on local newspapers.

In a Lords debate on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill yesterday (Monday), peers  supported the NMA’s call for consultation and further exemptions in the Bill or regulations under it, to ensure that the advertising and trading offences would not impact negatively upon lawful newspaper reporting, advertising, sales and distribution during the Games.  

In response, DCMS Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Baroness Barran said the Bill placed a duty on the Secretary of State to consult specific people before making the exceptions regulations for advertising and trading.

“We are keen to continue working with the News Media Association and others as work on potential exceptions develops,” she added.

During the Bill's Second Reading in the Lords, peers aired concerns raised by the NMA. The NMA has called for robust exemptions for news media to be put in place through amendments to the face of the Bill or through secondary legislation, with supplemental consultation on relevant guidance

Speaking in the debate, Lord Foster of Bath, Lib Dem, said: "Another concern has been raised by some elements within the media about the parts of the Bill dealing with the power of the organising committee to authorise and charge businesses to be associated with the Games and gain commercial benefit from so doing.

"I absolutely support all the measures in the Bill, but the News Media Association has recently written: 'The Bill's provisions could have a particular detrimental impact upon local newspapers, print and online, serving the communities hosting the Games and most concerned in promoting and celebrating their success.'”

Baroness Crawley, Labour, said: "We now need to get on with it, as time is running short. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said, the Government must deal constructively with concerns about the Bill, such as those of the News Media Association, representing local, regional and international media, on issues such as unimpeded, lawful newspaper reporting, advertising, sales and distribution during the Games.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Labour, said: "Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and others mentioned the briefing by the News Media Association on behalf of the UK's media publishers. When one hears about Downing Street's attempts to exclude certain media outlets from Downing Street briefings, following the Trump Administration's practice, the issue of public bodies trying to control media access is very serious. We will be looking for a comprehensive answer from the Minister about that during later stages of the Bill."

Lord Moynihan, Conservative, said: "On the subject of ticket touting, advertising and trading, I am grateful to the Advertising Association for continuing its characteristically deep-dive assessments of important legislation affecting the promotion of the role, rights and responsibilities of advertisers.

"It has been in discussion with government and remains concerned about the length of time that the vicinity and trading restrictions are in place, the need for affirmative procedure, to which I have just referred, to ​apply to the Secretary of State’s regulations as proposed by the Delegated Powers Committee, so that there may be public scrutiny of the regulations, and about suitable, comprehensive exemptions for the sale and distribution of newspapers and magazines."

Speaking for the Government, Baroness Barran said: "A number of noble Lords asked about the News Media Association. The Government welcome the engagement of the association on the development of the Bill. It places on the Secretary of State a duty to consult specific people before making the exceptions regulations for advertising and trading. We are keen to continue working with the News Media Association and others as work on potential exceptions develops."

The NMA said: "We welcome the Government's commitment again to detailed consultation with the NMA and to incorporation of appropriate robust, comprehensive newspaper exemptions from the offences created by the Bill, in order to enable newspaper editorial, advertising, sales and distribution activities during the Games. We look forward to resumption of our past constructive discussions with the DCMS and Games organisers."