Prime Minister Theresa May has told regional press editors “nothing is off the table” in the Government’s mission to protect the long-term sustainability of high-quality journalism in the UK.
The Government launched the Cairncross Review earlier this year in response to what May yesterday described as “significant pressures” on regional media after “rapid changes in consumer behaviour and technology have led to falling circulations and advertising revenues”.
The review, led by former journalist Dame Frances Cairncross, closed its call for evidence last month after receiving a number of suggested solutions to the challenges facing the industry, according to May.
Addressing a reception for regional media at Downing Street yesterday, she said: “Obviously, we’ll wait for the review’s findings and recommendations before we make specific policy decisions but nothing is off the table.
“This commission was launched because we see that there is a problem there and we need to have those voices looking into it for us and coming forward with their recommendations.”
May told the audience of regional press editors, chief executives and representatives from the News Media Association that the Government is “committed to safeguarding” the future of local media.
She said the “free, plural and vibrant media” is the “backbone of this country’s democracy”.
“As a member of parliament, I have often seen that it is regional and local media which is a trusted source of news for millions of citizens,” May said.
“It keeps all politicians alive to what really matters beyond the Westminster bubble – understanding what is happening out there is so important for us all. Of course, we see it in our own constituencies but getting that wider reflection of what happens is important.
“When that trusted local news comes under threat, then I think democracy suffers and people become ever more vulnerable to disinformation.
“So this is our local press, it is your profession, it is imperative that we work together to ensure it has a very good and viable future.”
In our submission to the Cairncross Review, Press Gazette said it would provide a “huge social good” if some of the billions in revenue made by US tech giants like Facebook and Google can somehow be used to support high-quality local journalism.
“Up until now we have argued that the Duopoly should do so voluntarily because it will benefit both media giants to have high quality local content on their platforms. But if they do not choose to do the right thing then perhaps they should be compelled to do so.”
Industry bodies including the News Media Association, the Independent Press Standards Organisation and the National Union of Journalists have also argued that the tech giants should “give something back” to publishers.
Picture: Reuters/Henry Nicholls