Culture Secretary: I Am Going To Be A Champion Of Journalism

Government is committed to acting to protect journalism including repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act and stepping in to tackle the dominance of the tech platforms in the digital marketplace, the Culture Secretary has said.

In an article for Journalism Matters, the News Media Association’s annual campaign to champion journalism, Michelle Donelan pledged to be a “champion of journalism,” heralding the UK’s vibrant local news media sector.

“Like countless readers, I am really proud to live in a country that has such a flourishing media scene, starting with the 850 local news titles across the UK (including the Melksham Independent News in my own constituency),” Ms Donelan said.  

“These local newspapers act as our neighbourhood watch. They have their ear to the ground of their communities – holding local public services’ feet to the fire, monitoring what is happening in the local courts and providing a valuable platform for causes and community groups.

“So this week is the perfect opportunity for me to make clear that as Secretary of State, I am going to be a champion of journalism in every way I can. For me, that starts with one of the most pressing things in my in-tray: making sure this industry thrives in the digital age.”

Journalism Matters kicked off today with activity across the industry including the launch of the Making a Difference public vote to find the best local and national news media of the past year and an article by NMA chief executive Owen Meredith.

Ms Donelan said the government was committed to doing a number of things to protect journalism which is just as important as ever.

“We are going to repeal Section 40, which would threaten media freedom and risk financial ruin for publishers. We have reshaped our world-leading Online Safety Bill to safeguard free speech and ensure Silicon Valley monoliths cannot censor quality journalism on a whim,” she said.  

“And we are stepping in to stop the biggest tech players from using their market dominance to mistreat other businesses and consumers. Our new regulator, the Digital Markets Unit, will level the playing field between news publishers and big tech – particularly when it comes to getting paid fairly for the news articles they create. After all, good journalism does not come for free.

“Together, those things should give journalists the space and support they need to thrive, no matter what new tech throws at them.” 

“Sadly, though, one thing seems to have survived the digital age. Being a journalist is just as risky as ever. In fact, thanks to the reach of social media, cases of intimidation, threats – and in rare cases – violence are on the rise.

“So I will be pushing ahead with our National Action Plan to ensure that journalists in the UK can operate without fear for their safety.  Working alongside industry partners, the police and others, we are committed to reducing the number of attacks and threats against journalists and ensuring those responsible are brought to justice.”

Ms Donelan added: “I intend to do my bit to help this essential industry thrive. But papers need your support, too. Ultimately it is you – the readers – who keep your local Gazette, Inquirer or Bugle up and running. 

“When you buy a paper or visit a news website, you are doing so much more than getting up-to-speed on the latest news or gossip. You are supporting an institution that keeps this country running.”