Newspaper editors shunned from convergence think tank

Ministers have concerned editors by ordering a study which could trigger regulatory changes for online news without involving journalists.

The convergence think tank will examine the challenges posed by the merging of broadcasting and communications services.

Whitehall accepts that it will have a key role in helping to shape future policy development in areas including TV, radio, mobile and fixed telecoms and online services.

But only one of the four people appointed to the think tank has had experience of working in the media – and he has a broadcasting background.

John Willis is a former director of programmes at Channel 4, managing director of LWT and director of factual and learning at the BBC.

The other three are Robin Foster, associate director of the Global Communications Consortium at the London Business School, Chris Earnshaw, a former executive with BT, and Tess Read, a business and strategy advisor to venture capital firms.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, told Press Gazette: ‘It seems strange when one of the most active online organisations in Britain is The Guardian, and other newspapers have made huge steps online in the past 18 months, that no one appears to have been recruited to give the newspapers’ view.”

In his controversial attack on journalists just before stepping down as prime minister, Tony Blair suggested that media convergence could raise a question mark over whether the press should continue to regulate itself while broadcasters are subject to statutory regulation by Parliament.

Since succeeding him, Gordon Brown has reassured editors he supports the newspaper industry continuing to regulate itself through the Press Complaints Commission.

But the Department for Media, Culture and Sport said the think tank would consider ‘the case for any future legislative changes”.

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