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23 January 2020

NMA Welcomes ICO Assurances On News Media And Age Appropriate Design Code

The News Media Association has welcomed assurances from the Information Commissioner’s Office that news media will not be swept up in new age appropriate design rules which could have wreaked havoc on the industry.

Responding to the publication of the ‘Age appropriate design: a code of practice for online services’ and the accompanying FAQs by the ICO, the NMA said it was pleased that the ICO had recognised the “vital role the news media industry plays in our society.”

The NMA said: “We welcome the fact that the code makes clear that publishers which adhere to codes such as the Editors’ Code of Practice will negate the need for providers of online news to take any additional steps in relation to news content for children.

“There was a real risk that these proposals could have wreaked havoc on the industry by forcing news media websites – which present no danger to children – to take drastic steps which would have severely impacted upon their ability to retain and grow audiences.

“We are also pleased that the ICO has recognised the vital role the news media industry plays in our society and welcome the opportunity to work with the regulator going forward to ensure that these measures do not unintentionally impact upon press freedom.”   

Following publication of the draft code in May, when the NMA warned that the measures could “wreak havoc” on the news media industry, vital changes were made to maintain news media editorial and advertising freedoms, as a result of the NMA’s detailed negotiations with the Information Commissioner, backed by discussions with the DCMS Secretary of State.

Exceptionally, FAQs specific to the media industry accompanying the code were also agreed between the ICO and the NMA, the only sector specific measures, in recognition of the importance of media freedom.

The FAQs state: “These FAQs have been developed for the news media, to help ensure the Code has proportionate implementation. They were drawn up in response to issues raised during the consultation period of the Code with input from the News Media Association.

“The FAQs are intended to provide clear advice on issues that would benefit from specific clarification. The FAQs may be revised to ensure that remains the case and the Commissioner will consult with the News Media Association over any such changes.”

Once the code has been laid by the Secretary of State it will remain before Parliament for 40 sitting days. If there are no objections, it will come into force 21 days after that.

The code then provides a transition period of 12 months, to give online services time to conform. The next phase of the ICO's work will include significant engagement with organisations to help them understand the code and prepare for its implementation.