The UK Government has announced a review of the sustainability of the newspaper industry, with a panel of experts leading the review being appointed in the coming months. The review aims to preserve the future of high quality national and local newspapers by investigating the current state of the news media sector to study – amongst other targets – the impact of Facebook and Google on advertising and to see to what extent the sector shows flexibility around the new market trends of digital technologies.
Prime Minister Theresa May, announcing the review in a speech marking 100 years of women’s suffrage in Manchester on 6 February, said that “free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built and it must be preserved. Over 200 local papers have closed since 2005. Here in Greater Manchester, several local newspapers have closed, including the Salford Advertiser, the Trafford Advertiser and the Wilmslow Express”.
She added that the review ‘will consider whether the creators of content are getting their fair share of advertisement revenue. And it will recommend whether industry or Government-led solutions can help improve the sustainability of the sector for the future”.
While the importance of the news media has never been in doubt, there has been a transformation in the last decade in the way audiences consume news. The fact that many UK press houses have already been forced to move many of their news-based services online has had a negative impact on print circulation and the knock–on effect on advertising has resulted in diminished revenues.
One of the most important elements of the review will be the local and the regional press which is the weakest in terms of adaptation to new technologies.
David Dinsmore, the chairman of the News Media Association, has welcomed the announcement on behalf of the national, regional and local news media industry which acknowledges the importance of the quality journalism in a democratic society. “Through digital platforms, news content is more widely consumed than ever before but the revenues to sustain the investment in that quality content are challenged,” said Dinsmore.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in his statement had underlined “robust high-quality journalism is important for public debate, scrutiny, and ultimately for democratic political discourse. Yet the press currently faces an uncertain future. Print circulations have declined, with readerships moving online, and the shift from print to digital advertising has led to a loss of revenue for the press. The Government is determined to ensure that the UK has a vibrant, independent and plural free press, which is able to provide high quality journalism as one of the cornerstones of our public debate.”