The Prime Minister has restated her commitment to overturn clauses which peers added to the Data Protection Bill to force newspapers to pay legal costs for data protection claims, win or lose at court.
Theresa May also said she wanted to create a “fair playing field” for local media in the digital advertising environment as part of a review into the sustainability of the news media industry which will begin next month.
At a meeting of the Johnston Press editorial board in Leeds this week, May was asked by editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford about whether she planned to change the way in which Facebook and Google were regulated in the way they curated news stories, the News Media Association has reported.
She replied: “These platforms say: ‘We are just platforms.’ Others will say: ‘No, you’re not, you’re a publisher.’
“Maybe there is actually a third category, something else that best describes what they do that starts to find some way in terms of looking at their liability rather than them just being able to say: ‘Well, it’s nothing to do with us’.”
The NMA said a report in Porstmouth’s The News quoted the Prime Minister as adding: “We have to look at how we can properly describe these organisations.”
May also confirmed to the editors that the Government remained committed to overturning a Section 40-style clause added to the Data Protection Bill in the House of Lords which would force newspapers not signed up to state-sponsored regulator Impress to pay the legal costs of claimants in data protection actions, whether they win or lose in court.
May said: “I have sat down on a number of occasions with my local paper and have heard from them direct about their concerns that it would have a huge impact on them.
“We will be looking to overturn the amendment when we get an opportunity.”
The NMA said MPs spoke out in defence of press freedom this week.
It said North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham has pledged support to overturn the Lords amendments, and told the Lynn News that that the Section 40-style clause was “Orwellian”.
“This is an erosion of the press freedom,” he told the paper.
“If you don’t have an independent judiciary and an elected parliament that can be held to account by a free and fair press then you do not have a democracy.”
He added: “You can see many examples around the world of so-called democracies where this has happened.”
Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls