The independent review, undertaken by Dame Frances Cairncross MP, was tasked by the Government to find a more sustainable model for public interest journalism in a sector facing unprecedented change and disruption.
According the Department for Culture Media and Sport, half of UK adults worry about “fake news” or disinformation and a quarter do not know how to verify sources of information they find online.
The findings in the report call for a regulator to oversee a ‘news quality obligation’ on big online distributors, such as Google and Facebook, to ensure the content they host is credible and trustworthy. Although a tacit recognition that self-regulation by the internet giants is not working, Dame Cairncross did not go so far as to suggest they should begin paying for the news they host or that social media companies be treated as news publishers, with legal liability for what appears on their platforms.
The report also calls for:
- A new independent Institute and Innovation Fund be created to ensure the future provision of public interest news, using public and private funding to support local journalism and public interest news;
- New forms of tax reliefs to encourage payments for online news content and support local and investigative journalism
- New codes of conduct to rebalance the relationship between publishers and online platforms;
After publishing her findings, Dame Cairngross said in a statement:
“The proposals I have put forward have the potential to improve the outlook for high quality journalism. They are designed to encourage new models to emerge, with the help of innovation not just in technology but in business systems and journalistic techniques.”
The scale of the challenge facing the news industry was reflected in a a Mediatique report commissioned by the Department for Culture Media and Sport in April last year which found that the number of full-time frontline journalists in the UK has dropped from an estimated 23,000 in 2007, to just 17,000 today, and the numbers are still declining.
The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright MP, will now open discussions about how best to implement the recommendations in the review. The Government will respond fully to the report later this year.