Culture minister admits 'huge challenge' posed to newspapers by Google and Facebook and says Ofcom could investigate

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Picture  Reuters/Stephen Lam

The impact of online platforms like Facebook and Google on the advertising revenue of the news media could be subject to a review by Ofcom, culture minister Matt Hancock has said.

Hancock said there was “a huge challenge in maintaining high-quality journalism”, as advertising that once went to publishers such as newspapers is now spent on internet platforms.

Tory MP Matt Warman, a former journalist, tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill calling for a review of this impact on the news media, warning MPs the media could fall into “a state of disrepair”.

Hancock said: “There is a huge challenge in maintaining high-quality journalism, when increasingly advertising revenues go to the platform, but the costs fall on the content provider or the newspaper.”

He added: “Ofcom publishes an annual report on news consumption across the UK. It includes the sources and platforms used in news consumption, and the role of intermediaries like Facebook and Google.

“They undertake ad hoc reviews where appropriate, Ofcom do, and we will explore whether this is an area where such a review is needed.”

Warman said Ofcom should examine whether local and national newspapers, as well as TV networks, were sustainable in the new media landscape.

He added: “The fact remains that local papers and even national papers are closing.

“I do not think it can be right for the Government to stand idly by in the knowledge that this undesirable event is happening.

“I seek to plant in the vast expanse of the minister’s mind the idea that the Government should seek to reassure itself and all our constituents that should our media fall into a state of disrepair, we explored every possible option to see whether a role should be found.”

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