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09 May 2019

Wright Outlines Government Actions To Promote Media Sustainability

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has said that a healthy and diverse media is "a sign of a healthy democracy" as he outlined the areas in which the Government is taking action to promote media sustainability following the Cairncross report.

Mr Wright said: “A prosperous publishing sector is so important. Firstly, because it helps to provide the outlets and forums that bring our society together... Supporting people in getting high quality content, whatever their passion may be, and helping to educate and inspire future generations. Second, a lively and sustainable publishing sector is an integral component of a well-informed society.

Speaking at the Professional Publishers Association Festival, Mr Wright said: "In a world where online disinformation is an increasing concern, fearless and trusted sources of news and information are as important as ever. So we can hold the powerful to account and have a public discourse that puts the facts first. A healthy and diverse media sector is a sign of a healthy democracy. It is in all of our interests to get this right.

He said the Government was looking at longer-term structural concerns and how to address them. He added: "For example, online advertising now represents a growing part of the economy and forms an important revenue stream for many publishers. But this burgeoning market is largely opaque and extremely complex.

"And therefore it is currently impossible to know whether the revenue shares received by news publishers are fair and recognise the considerable work that goes into making high quality content. Dame Frances proposed that the Competition and Markets Authority conducts a market study into the digital advertising market.

"I agree, and such a study would examine whether the online marketplace is operating effectively, and whether it enables or prevents fair competition. Her Review also proposed establishing a new code of conduct, to rebalance the commercial relationship between publishers and online platforms. That recommendation was echoed in the subsequent review by Jason Furman, which called for a digital platform code of conduct.

"I am very keen to ensure we make progress in these areas, and I have asked my officials to look in depth at this issue, working closely with publishers, and the platforms. Success here will hopefully go some way to level the playing field.

"Another consequence of the online revolution is that it is harder than ever to protect intellectual property. Intellectual property is the lifeblood of any creative sector and helps artists and producers to be rewarded for their ingenuity. We want to see better protection for creators, while maintaining the rights of users and supporting a thriving digital economy.

"That is why we have been supportive of the EU Copyright Directive. And while the Directive is not perfect, it is an important modernisation of the copyright framework for the digital age. Just as we do with all legislation, we will work closely with those affected to make sure we implement it in the right way.

Mr Wright concluded: "We have a sector that is almost unparalleled in its scale and its vibrancy, spanning multiple formats and many diverse areas. But it is a challenging time and we cannot be complacent about the scale of this challenge. In an era where disinformation and misinformation are posing a grave threat to our democracy and civil society, this is an industry worth fighting for."

In evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday Mr Wright said that the Government intended to bring forward legislation in the next Parliamentary session to legislate for a duty of care for the tech giants and to legislate for the new regulator.

He stressed to MPs that the regulator should not encroach into press regulation, telling MPs: “I want to make sure we are not duplicating effort, so where there is already a regulatory structure in existence, I don't wish to trespass upon it.

“So for example when you look at the press, it is not an area where I think we should be asking the regulator to trespass upon because it is regulated in a different way.'

He added: “What I am keen to do is make sure the regulator has the capacity to act in the scope of user-generated content. I don't exclude from the scope search engines because they are facilitating access to user-generated content.

“The other principles I apply here are that first of all we must be careful not to overload the regulator. I [also] want to make sure we are not duplicating effort,” The Daily Mail reported