Theresa May has announced a review of the sustainability of Britain’s newspaper industry in the face of falling circulations and online competition for advertising revenue.
In a speech in Manchester today, the Prime Minister described the free press as “one of the foundations on which our democracy is built”, declaring: “It must be preserved.”
She said the closure of hundreds of titles across the UK in recent years was “dangerous for our democracy” because of the risk that voters will turn to “untrustworthy” sources for the information on which to form their views.
The review will examine the operation of digital advertising and look at whether those writing online content are getting a big enough slice of the income from ads.
And it will consider action which the Government or the media industry could take to ensure a financial future for the free press.
May said: “Good quality journalism provides us with the information and analysis we need to inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion. It is a huge force for good.
“But in recent years, especially in local journalism, we’ve seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms and fears for the future sustainability of high-quality journalism.
“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.
“This is dangerous for our democracy. When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.”
The new review will look at the sustainability of the UK’s national, regional and local press, said May.
“It will look at the different business models for high-quality journalism,” she said.
“And because digital advertising is now one of the essential sources of revenue for newspapers, the review will analyse how that supply chain operates.
“It 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.
“A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built, and it must be preserved.”
The Prime Minister’s comments follow Press Gazette’s campaign calling on Facebook and Google – known collectively as the Duopoly – to stop destroying journalism and pay more back to news publishers on whose content they rely.
The Duopoly already takes the lion’s share of UK digital ad spend, which is expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2020 according to analysts.
This week, Google parent company Alphabet posted revenues of more than £100bn for 2017, with Facebook reaching more than £40bn. Income for both companies is almost entirely made up through advertising.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sun, Times and Wall Street Journal newspapers, has said Facebook should pay a “carriage” fee to host trusted news content on its platform.
Picture: Paul Ellis/PA Wire