Denham: Age Verification Plans Will Not Impact News Media Websites

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has moved to reassure publishers that they will not be affected by plans to introduce an age appropriate design code and standards for websites which the News Media Association fears would “wreak havoc” upon news media.

Speaking to the DCMS Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into immersive and addictive technologies, Ms Denham said: “We want to encourage children to find out about the world, we want children to access news sites.

“So the concern about the impact of the code on media and editorial comment and journalism I think is unfounded. She added: “We don’t think there will be an impact on news media sites. They are already regulated and we are not a media regulator.”

The NMA is meeting the Information Commissioner to discuss, among other things, industry fears around the proposals which the NMA has said would force publishers to choose between their online services being “devoid of audience or stripped of advertising.”

In its submission to the ICO’s consultation on the code, the NMA said: “In practice, the draft Code would undermine commercial news media publishers’ business models, as audience and advertising would disappear. Adults will be deterred from visiting newspaper websites if they first have to provide age verification details.

“Traffic and audience will also be reduced if social media and other third parties were deterred from distributing or promoting or linking titles’ lawful, code compliant, content for fear of being accused of promoting content detrimental to some age group in contravention of the Code.

“Audience measurement would be difficult. It would devastate advertising, since effective, relevant, personalised advertising will be rendered impossible, and so destroy the vital commercial revenues which actually fund the independent media, its trusted journalism and enable it to innovate and evolve to serve the ever-changing needs of its audience.

“The draft Code’s impact would be hugely damaging to the news industry and wholly counter to the Government’s policy on sustaining high quality, trusted journalism at local, regional, national and international levels.”