Liverpool Echo Editor Calls For DMU Legislation To Create Sustainable Future For Trusted Local Journalism

Giving the Digital Markets Unit the teeth it needs to level the playing level field between news publishers and the tech platforms will pave the way for a sustainable future for high quality local journalism, the editor of the Liverpool Echo has said in a speech.

Speaking to an audience of publishers, parliamentarians, and policy makers at the News Media Association’s Journalism Matters parliamentary reception sponsored by Sir John Whittingdale MP, Maria Breslin spoke of the title’s strong record of campaigning on behalf of its readers.

She spoke of campaigns such as the paper’s ongoing support for the Hillsborough families, the title’s backing for Liverpool’s successful Capital of Culture bid, and the ‘Whose Side Are You On?’ campaign following the fatal shooting of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel earlier this year.

Talking about the business of local journalism, Ms Breslin said: “We have a business model that I believe works, but we do need a helping hand. It’s wrong that a Facebook audience will never see some of our most important content because of an algorithm I cannot begin to understand or that the BBC will always rank higher in search engines when we have the boots on the ground.

“Our commercial ad-revenue-based model has its challenges, but these challenges are not insurmountable, and the reward is high – free and trusted news for all – not a nice-to-have based on the ability to pay. And that is important in cities such as Liverpool where financial challenges and deprivation are widespread.

“What I care about is the long-term sustainability of local news. Making it a profitable business is a key part to ensuring it remains powerful and relevant. That’s why it’s so critically important for the legislation giving the new digital regulator, the Digital Markets Unit, to be brought to Parliament without any further delay.”

The Journalism Matters campaign kicked off yesterday 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 articles by the Culture Secretary and NMA chief executive Owen Meredith who hosted the parliamentary event.

Today, in an op ed for the campaign, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Labour Party supports moves to make platforms pay for news content and to give newspapers and publishers greater control of their data and content.

Speaking at the event yesterday, Sir John said: “I think journalism plays an absolutely vital part in ensuring that locally elected institutions are held to account, that electors are properly informed before they make decisions, but we know the local media is under huge pressure.

Talking about policy issues, he added: “I know that everybody in this room is extremely keen to see statutory backing to the Digital Markets Unit. We are promised a Bill, we will go on arguing that that Bill needs to be introduced into Parliament and put on the statute book as quickly as possible because the abuse of dominant power by the tech platforms continues and we need intervention to strengthen the hand of the publishers to stop their content being exploited without proper reward by those platforms.

“So I will certainly be continuing to call for the government to act, as they have promised to do, but sooner rather than later.”