PM kicks off government newspaper review

By Rhys Handley, Wednesday 07 February 2018

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Theresa May has launched a review into the future of national and local newspapers, following the shutdown and downsizing of numerous titles across the UK.

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Review will look at the "uncertain" future of local and national press

A review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will investigate the overall health of the news media, looking at the range of news available and how the press is adapting to the new digital market – including the involvement of online platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Speaking in Manchester yesterday, the Prime Minister referred to the closures of print titles in the area, such as the Salford Advertiser, the Trafford Advertiser, and the Wilmslow Express – which are among 200 local papers to have closed since 2005.

“Changes in technology are also having a profound impact on one of the cornerstones of our public debate – our free press,” she said.

"Good quality journalism provides us with the information and analysis we need to inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion. It is a huge force for good.

“[The review] will recommend whether industry or government-led solutions can help improve the sustainability of the sector for the future. A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built and it must be preserved.”

Culture secretary Matt Hancock said the review will look at the uncertain future of local and regional press, will also assessing digital advertising revenue, as well as the prevalence of low-quality “clickbait” news”. A panel of experts will be appointed "in the coming months".

Welcoming the announcement, News Media Association chair David Dinsmore said: “The NMA welcomes this announcement today on behalf of the national, regional and local news media industry.

“This review acknowledges the importance of journalism in a democratic society, the vital role that the press takes in holding the powerful to account and producing verified news which informs the public. Viable business models must be found that ensure a wide variety of media are able to have a long and healthy future.”

Recent changes in the national press have seen The Independent cease printing in favour of online-only in 2016, and The Guardian shrink to tabloid size this January. Talks for Trinity Mirror to buy Northern & Shell’s Express and Star titles are still officially ongoing, though press speculation this week suggested that a £127m deal could be done by Friday.

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