Report: Culture Secretary Writes To Advertisers Over Keyword Blocking

Oliver Dowden has written to advertisers, advertising agencies, and tech platforms to demand that keyword blocking around coronavirus stories is abandoned after estimates the practice could cost the news media industry £50 million over three months.

The Guardian reported that the Culture Secretary had written to advertisers to say trusted news outlets are a “fourth emergency service at this time because they provide independent, verifiable news and information to the public” and need to be saved.

 In an appeal supported by trade associations including the News Media Association, Newsworks executive chair Tracy De Groose, called on advertisers to “back don’t block British journalism” by remove “coronavirus” from their blocklists.

If the pandemic lasts for another three months the total loss to news brands is expected to be £50 million.

“If the uptake of industry guidance is not shown to have a rapid impact, the Government will have to consider all possible options in the interests of promoting critical public service news at this time of national emergency,” the Guardian reported Mr Dowden as saying.

“In this unprecedented time, there is a need for pragmatism and to do everything possible to prevent an irreversible decline in news publishing, which would have far-reaching consequences for everyone, including advertisers themselves,” he said.

“I hope that everyone would appreciate that, with limited exceptions, it cannot be right to block advertising around Covid-19 related stories given the clear public interest in people having access to reliable content on Covid-19, and given its makes up of the majority output of the news industry at this time.”