A Government review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism, which has been prompted by industry-wide decline in print circulations and ad revenues, has issued its first call for evidence.
The Cairncross Review, led by Dame Frances Cairncross (pictured), will “explore what intervention might be required to safeguard the future of our free and independent press,” according to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock.
A report commissioned ahead of the review has found that circulation and print advertising revenues for news publishers have dropped by more than half over the last decade from nearly £7bn to just over £3bn.
According to the findings, the number of frontline print journalists has dropped by more than a quarter over the same period, from about 23,000 in 2007 to 17,000 last year.
A quarter of all regional and local newspapers have also closed in the past decade, the report by Mediatique said.
The review’s own research goes further, claiming more than 300 local and regional titles have closed since 2007 alone, leaving some communities without access to local news.
In the preparatory report’s other findings:
- The newspaper industry contributes 50 per cent of total editorial journalism in the UK – more than online and broadcast news combined – equal to an investment of £925m in 2017
- As of February 2018, there were 1,043 local and regional titles as well as ten daily and nine Sunday UK-wide national newspapers
- A total of 73.5m newspapers circulate in an average week in the UK, of which 31.4m are local or regional and the remaining 42.1m are national
- The average daily circulation of national newspapers (weekday) fell from 11.2m in 2007 to 6.1m in 2017
- Total press ad spend (excluding digital) has declined across the national and regional/local press by 70 per cent in the last ten years, from £4.6bn in 2007 to an estimated £1.4bn in 2017
- Younger people are much less likely to get their news from printed newspapers – the proportion of people aged 16-24 who read printed newspapers is lower than the rest of the population
- People in the same age group are more likely to get their news from the internet – 63 per cent compared with 48 per cent among the overall UK population.
The review will look at the overall state of the news media market, particularly the press industry, including threats to financial sustainability.
The role and impact of digital search engines and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Google, as well as the operation of the digital advertising supply chain and how content and data flows are operated and managed, will also be explored.
An 11-strong advisory panel made up of news media industry experts will examine evidence, with a report expected by early 2019.
The review will also offer recommendations about how best to sustain UK journalism in the face of existential threats.
Dame Cairncross said: “This review is not about preserving the status quo. We need to explore ways in which we can ensure that consumers in ten years time have access to high-quality journalism which meets their needs, is delivered in the way they want, and supports democratic engagement.
“This call for evidence enables all those with an interest to contribute their knowledge and views so we can build the evidence and make impactful recommendations to move forward.”
Hancock said: “Our fearless and independent press plays a vital role in informing citizens and is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built.
“At a time of dramatic technological changes and with our institutions under threat from disinformation, we need this clear-eyed view of how high-quality journalism can continue to be effectively produced, distributed and consumed.”
Any interested organisation or individual can submit written evidence to the review. The call for evidence will close on Friday 7 September 2018.
Submissions can be made via email to Cairncross Review Secretariat firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to Cairncross Review Secretariat, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 4th floor, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ.
Responses will be published in full or summary form unless explicitly flagged ‘not for publication’, in which case they will be kept private.