Lord Justice Leveson has called the financial state of the press “depressing” after hearing evidence on digital media from a media analyst.
Claire Enders, of Enders Analysis, told the judge no newspaper group had found the “magic bullet” to ensure digital platforms would provide financial stability for news organisations.
She said: “It isn’t the fault of the newspapers for not having found the magic bullet, because my heavens, they have all tried and they’ve tried from one end of America to the other. They’ve tried from one end of Europe [to the other].
“I really wouldn’t task the newspapers with finding some wonderful model, because, my heavens, they’re desperate to do it and we, as their advisers, would be delighted if they could but so far the only method of staying alive has proved to be cutting your costs.”
When Lord Justice Leveson told her it sounded “all rather depressing”, Enders replied: “It’s the way things are.
She told the inquiry the Mail Online, one of the biggest newspaper websites worldwide, made £16 million last year compared to £608 million taken by Associated Newspapers titles – the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday
Robin Foster – an adviser on media policy regulation – told the inquiry it is harder for general interest newspapers to persuade readers to pay for online content when “they can find a lot of free of charge elsewhere on the internet”.
Experts give evidence on media plurality and data protection
Stuart McIntosh and Steven Unger – from broadcast regulator Ofcom – appeared before Lord Justice Leveson to discuss a report giving advice to the culture secretary on media plurality.
The report, made public on the inquiry’s website last month, recommended the government consider how to strike the right balance between promoting plurality and encouraging economically sustainable news media organisations on the other
The inquiry also heard from Philip Coppel QC – a barrister specialising in data protection and freedom of information law – gave evidence on the Data Protection Act in relation to the press. He told the inquiry the Act was often confusing to use in privacy cases.
“My experience is that whenever the Data Protection Act is raised in court, it doesn’t get a very favourable reception because it is daunting to most. The concepts are unfamiliar and the way in which the Act is worded and structured doesn’t help to that level of understanding, so one immediately is confronted which difficulties, which it’s very often impossible to overcome.”
Coppel said he had looked into raising fines for breaches of the Act in certain cases.
He said: “If something has a very wide dissemination of very sensitive personal information – let’s say a person’s medical reports were disseminated in a national newspaper. I find it difficult to see why that should be only modestly compensated. That, it seems to me, is a fundamental breach of what the Act is there to protect.
“In particular, sensitive personal data has been disseminated abroad, and the fact that the individual doesn’t break out into boils or doesn’t show some other physical manifestation of the nakedness of that individual’s personal medical details being put in a public forum is, so far as I’m concerned, neither here nor there.”