Online Safety Bill: NMA Welcomes Culture Secretary Pledge To Look At Full Exemption For News Publishers

The News Media Assocation has welcomed a pledge by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to look at a full exemption for news publishers from the scope of the Online Safety Bill, during a Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill oral evidence session this morning,

Responding to the Culture Secretary’s commitment, NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said: “We welcome the commitment given by the Culture Secretary to look at a full exemption for news publishers from the scope of the Online Safety Bill, including a positive duty on platforms not to take down news publisher content.

“We believe that a full and robust exemption from the regime is the best way to balance the need to protect freedom of speech with the laudable objectives of the legislation to crack down on online harms propagated by the platforms.

“We look forward to working with Government on how the exemption can be most effectively drafted and implemented.”

Separately today, in a Press Gazette article for the “much-needed” Journalism Matters campaign, chair of the Committee Damian Collins said that more needs to be done to protect trusted journalism in the digital environment.

He said clear protections for journalists and news media organisations from “the whims of Silicon Valley” needed to be established within the Bill.

Through competition law reform, it is also necessary to “look at” the business models of big tech in order to remind the tech platforms that “British Journalism Matters” and guarantee a sustainable future for journalism.   

He said: “Facebook, Google and others are, after all, ad companies – and it’s increasingly clear that they are abusing their market power to hoard ad revenue that would otherwise fund news reporting.

“This is what led to the showdown between Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and Facebook earlier in the year, before the Californian giant folded, and agreed to enter compensation negotiations with local newspapers under the News Media Bargaining Code.

“I hope that the UK will follow suit and build on this model in next year’s Competition Bill: it is time to remind Silicon Valley that British Journalism Matters.”

The News Media Association has said that the Committee must be allowed time to complete its work including ensuring that the Bill contains a robust and workable exemption for journalism to ensure that press freedom is not adversely affected by the regime.  

In his article for Press Gazette today, Mr Collins said: “Journalism Matters Week is a much-needed occasion to celebrate the essential role that a free and diverse media plays in our democracy.

“However, it is also a reminder that more needs to be done in an environment where news is increasingly consumed online.

“That is not necessarily a bad thing, per se – but it is crucial to guarantee that trusted, professional journalism is not drowned out in a digital world.”

He cited evidence from Maria Ressa, chief executive of Filipino online news outlet Rappler, who said the new regime is an opportunity to break the link between authoritarian regimes and the tech giants who facilitate the emergence of armies of anonymous accounts who “create a false reality in a national political discourse” pounding independent journalists into silence.

He continued: “As a democracy, it is surely Britain’s role to create higher standards, rather than shy away.

“One way to do that is by establishing clear protections for journalists and news media organisations from the whims of Silicon Valley.

“Recent examples of British news outlets censored by Youtube have made headlines. TalkRadio and Novara Media may have little in common in terms of editorial leaning, but they both have clear legal liabilities and abide by the rules of established media regulators.

“In both cases, Youtube has admitted it was wrong to censor their channels.

“The Online Safety Bill will guarantee that such over-reaching would be a breach of a platform’s duty to protect freedom of expression.”