Matt Hancock: Sustainable, healthy press is beacon for our democracy
The Culture Secretary spoke at the Oxford Media Convention.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock warned of the “corrosive” culture of fake news as he announced the Government’s review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism would be led by Dame Frances Cairncross.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, Mr Hancock said the review, announced last month by Prime Minister Theresa May, would “explore whether intervention may be required to safeguard the future of our free and independent press”.
Huffington Post editor-in-chief Polly Curtis, Geraldine Allinson, chair of the KM Media Group, and former Mail On Sunday editor Peter Wright will also be among the panel alongside former economic journalist Dame Cairncross.
During his speech, Mr Hancock spoke about accuracy, sustainability and diversity.
He discussed “the transformative effect of technology on our media and on our society”, and the challenges facing the media today, including falling newspaper circulations, declining advertising revenues, changing consumption and wholesale disinformation.
'A sustainable, healthy and trusted press is a beacon for our democracy and that it is what we must keep in our sights' - Matt Hancock
He said disinformation, or fake news, was a real threat.
“We reap massive benefits in this country from our free, open and accessible media. But we must act to deter those who want to take advantage of this to cause harm,” he said.
Mr Hancock said technological solutions must be found and he welcomed recent moves by Facebook and Google to use technology to prevent the spread of fake news online.
“A sustainable, healthy and trusted press is a beacon for our democracy and that is what we must keep in our sights,” he said.
Mr Hancock said UK newspaper circulations have halved since 2001, with local papers being particularly under threat.
“Sustaining high-quality journalism is a vital public policy goal,” he said. “The scrutiny, the accountability, the uncovering of wrongs and the fuelling of debate is mission critical to a healthy democracy.”
Mr Hancock said the external review would examine the sustainability of the UK press, to propose solutions to protect the future of high-quality journalism.
It will take evidence, report and publish recommendations within a year.
“We’re confident that we will find solutions that can help both the industry and the Government tackle these issues,” Mr Hancock said.
“This is not about Government regulating the media and nor is it about propping up old business models that have stopped being viable.
“Rather, it is about making sure that we don’t wake up in five years’ time to find that high-quality journalism has been decimated and our democracy damaged as a result.”
He also used his speech to discuss diversity, saying the “future of our media must have diversity at its heart”.
He called on all broadcasters and publications to publish their data on all diversity characteristics, not just those required by law.