THE Press Gazette have given their response to the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism in the UK and have claimed that companies like Google and Facebook are not doing enough to support journalism.

It has been widely reported that print media, specifically newspapers are in decline and that the pool of advertisers is ever decreasing as people turn to internet based advertising.

There is an argument that search engines like Google rely heavily on content from the newspaper – media industry and therefore should be using some of their profits on subsidising news in parts of the UK where print news media is under threat or non existent.

The BBC have thrown money at printed news by giving over millions of pounds to fund local democracy reporters to cover council meetings and court reporting. Many areas have yet to see any evidence of the reporters in action and some have questioned why a publicly funded organisation like the BBC is funding employees for the likes of Trinity Mirror and others who have been laying off established journalists and making staff cutbacks.

The year on year decline in spend on advertising within the newspaper industry is set to continue with Facebook and Google reportedly netting approximately £6bn of advertising in the UK in 2017

The Press Gazette have referred to this change and dominance by the big two internet companies as ‘Duopoly’. The result as anyone who ever played Monopoly will know is that those who own Mayfair and Park Lane ultimately win the game.

With more newspapers set to hit the wall instead of the news stands the Press Gazette have added their contribution to the evidence sought in the Cairncross report. One figure cited by the Press Gazette suggests that the number of professional journalists in employment in the UK has dropped from 13,000 in 2006 to almost half that in 2018 (source; Newspaper Society).

Once local employer: Closed December 2017

As in many areas Llanelli lost its local newspaper offices at the end of 2017 with staff being moved to Swansea to work remotely. The sum total of the giant that once was the Llanelli Star is now a table and chair at the St Elli Centre on a Wednesday.

Concerns were raised by journalists and politicians, an unlikely foe that courts and council meetings would no longer be covered leaving a real danger of an erosion of democracy and a lack of accountability as meetings take place with no one to report the facts on what was discussed. The public have to wait 28 days and rely on the council’s own minutes of meetings.

Those who turned to online in the hope of gathering revenue from pay walls were met with the home truth that not many people would be willing to pay for news when they could access the other big player’s site (the BBC) for free.

Press Gazette claim that {there is very little evidence of sustainable online-only journalism models emerging to serve local people in a post-print world}. They also claim that ultra-local news websites, which have sprung up all over the UK are unable to pay professional journalists.

That may be about to change in Wales as the Welsh Assembly Government have earmarked £200,000 to support hyperlocals in the Principality. There are also incredible partnerships and collaborations being formed between the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) and Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism (C4CJ) who have formed a network to support hyperlocals across the UK.

The Press Gazette highlight a very valid point in that {While the news media spends hundreds of millions gathering original content, verifying it and publishing it – Google and Facebook profit from that work for free. The digital giants are insulated from the threat of privacy and defamation actions, passing on that liability to their users}.

While moves are being made in Wales to work with the likes of Trinity Mirror, the BBC and indeed Google the Press Gazette argue that a lot more could and should be done by the internet giants. Whether they do so voluntarily or are compelled to do so remains to be seen.

You can read the full report by the Press Gazette here.

 

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