NMA Calls for Online Safety Bill News Publisher Exemption To Be Strengthened

The publisher exemption from the new online safety regime must be strengthened during the passage of the Online Safety Bill, as Ministers have committed to do, News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said yesterday.

Giving evidence to the Online Safety Bill Committee alongside Guardian Media Group’s Matt Rogerson, Owen stressed the need to strengthen the exemption through amendments to the Bill to ensure journalistic content is not inadvertently caught by the new regime.   

During the second reading of the Bill in April, DCMS Minister Chris Philp MP said that the Bill will be amended to make sure that journalistic content cannot be removed from tech platforms until “a proper right of appeal” has taken place.

The NMA had previously welcomed commitments from the Culture Secretary to strengthen the exemption for news publishers’ content in the Bill.

Giving evidence yesterday, Owen said: “We think that although the government’s stated intention to have recognised news media publishers’, who I represent, content outside the scope of the Bill we don’t believe that the drafting as was and still is actually achieves that.

“I know Ministers and the Secretary of State have confirmed both in public appearances and during the second reading of the Bill that they wish to take on further amendments to achieve that the government have set out which is to ensure that content from recognised news publishers is fully out of scope of the Bill.

“It needs to go further but I understand there will be amendments coming before you at some point to achieve that.”

Speaking yesterday Mr Philp said that government looking was looking at introducing “what some people call a temporary ‘must  carry’ provision or a mandatory right of appeal for recognised news publishers.”

Matt added: “I think at the moment the concern for us is that the legal but harmful category of content that’s going to be included in the Bill. We don’t know what that’s going to look like at the moment, it’s only going to be done after the event through codes of practice.

“I think there’s definitely a danger that news publisher content gets caught by the platforms imposing that so the reason for having a news publisher exemption is to enable users of platforms like Facebook and Twitter and others to access the same news that they would do by search.

“I agree with Owen’s point, I think the principle of where the government’s going with the exemption for broadcasters like the BBC, The Times, The Guardian, it’s in the right direction I think we’d like to see it strengthened a bit to ensure there’s cast iron protection.

Both Matt and Owen said that comments on recognised news publisher content should be included within the exemption.