Stephen Woodford Attacks Lords Press Freedom Curbs

Attempts to place increased financial burdens on the producers of quality journalism through a Leveson 2-style enquiry into the media and a Section 40 to the data protection regime will damage the media sector and wider economy, the chief executive of the Advertising Association has said.

Responding to the House of Lords votes for a wide-ranging enquiry into the media and a Section 40-style clause to be inserted into the Data Protection Bill last week, Stephen Woodford said the UK’s position as a global leader in media was built on its “great journalism.”

Mr Woodford said: “A strong, vibrant commercial sector media provides UK business with the extensive advertising possibilities it needs to support growth plans. The world-leading media we have in this country is built on great journalism producing fantastic content both at local and national level.

“Any move to restrict or place an increased financial burden on quality journalism such as the punitive Section-40 style clause for the data protection regime voted through the House of Lords will be damaging to the media sector and the wider economy.

“We stand alongside other commentators in believing that this week’s House of Lords’ recommendation on a new public inquiry into the press is not a good thing for freedom of speech. Advertising is an engine room of the economy and we should not underestimate the implications of it being weakened as a result should the recommendation go ahead.”

The votes in Lords prompted Prime Minister Theresa May and Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to speak out in defence of a free press last week.

The News Media Association said: “Hundreds of national and local news media editors and publishers across the UK are united in their fierce opposition to these cynical attempts to establish a costly and unnecessary, taxpayer-funded statutory public enquiry into the wider media industry and to introduce another punitive version of crippling Section 40 costs sanctions, enforcing state licensing of newspapers and inflicting huge damage on a free press.”

Separately last week, Sir Richard Branson came out in defence of freedom of speech to reverse a decision by Virgin Trains to stop selling the Daily Mail on board trains. In a statement announcing the decision, Sir Richard said: Freedom of speech, freedom of choice and tolerance for differing views are the core principles of any free and open society.

“While Virgin Trains has always said that their passengers are free to read whatever newspaper they choose on board West Coast trains, it is clear that on this occasion the decision to no longer sell The Mail has not been seen to live up to these principles.

“Brian and I agree that we must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice. Nor must we be seen to be moralising on behalf of others. Instead we should stand up for the values we hold dear and defend them publicly, as I have done with the Mail on many issues over the years.”