The Cairncross Review was established by the Government in March 2018, to “examine the sustainability of high quality journalism.” It is aimed specifically at the newspaper industry. The Review’s chair is Dame Frances Cairncross, who is assisted by an advisory panel of press representatives.
Hacked Off’s response called on the Review to recommend that:
- Any financial support for publishers is conditional on press membership of an independent regulator as Leveson recommended. Without restoring independence of regulation, newspapers can have no hope of regaining public trust. And without public trust, circulations will continue to decline.
- The nature of any provisions of financial support for publishers should be decided by the Press Recognition Panel, as the independently-established auditing body for press regulators. Any system which gives the Government any discretion over financial provisions would allow unacceptable interference in press freedom.
- The Government should avoid any attempt to define “quality journalism” subjectively, and instead rely upon the objective criteria of press membership of an independent regulator. Membership of such a regulator guarantees standards of accuracy and reliability (including correction where there is inaccuracy).
Hacked Off’s response makes the following key points:
- That, by standards of accuracy, reliability and ethics, “the quality of much of the journalism in UK national newspapers… is low.” The Leveson Report, as well as Hacked Off publications Failure of IPSO, Frontpage Failures and Thrown to the Wolves highlight this.
- That “a contributing factor to the declining circulation and consequent declining revenues of the press is declining trust in print media.”
- That “one of the distinguishing features of broadcast and radio media in the UK [both of which enjoy greater public trust than the press] is that they are subject to statutory and independent regulation… the panel ought to recognise that independent and effective regulation is one important factor in securing the trust and confidence of the public.”
- That the review should “recommend the adoption of an independent regulator for the newspaper industry, to increase public trust and support its long-term sustainability. Such a regulator should be independent of the industry and protected from all political interference.”
- That “any remedial measures should target the protection of local newspapers.”
- Finally, that the Government should recognise that it “has an obligation to protect the freedom of the press… and equally an obligation not to interfere with that freedom itself.”
Our full submission to the Cairncross Review can be read here.
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