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Cairncross demands more help for regional press four years on from review

CairncrossThe author of a wide-ranging review into the local news industry has demanded more action to help the regional press four years on from her report being published.

Dame Frances Cairncross, pictured, has shared her disappointment that just one of the nine recommendations she made in her 2019 review has so far been fully implemented.

In a letter published by the Mail on Sunday marking the fourth anniversary of the reporter’s publication, she called for “targeted interventions to support local publishers” and for the new Digital Markets Unit to be put on a statutory footing as soon as possible.

As a result of her 2019 recommendations, the then-Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport unveiled a £2m fund to help the regional press explore “innovative ways” to provide local public interest journalism.  However Dame Frances says more needs to be done.

She wrote in her letter: “Today marks the fourth anniversary of the publication of my report into the sustainability of journalism in the UK.

“A lot has happened since then: the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have underlined the importance of trusted news.

“The Commons Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has just drawn particular attention to the fragile state of local news.

“My report in 2019 laid out nine recommendations to support and sustain the news media sector. So far, only one of these has been fully implemented.

“If we want a culture in which journalism can thrive, we need to do much more. The reorganisation of the relevant government department must foster, rather than delay action.

“That could involve bringing forward the legislation to give the Digital Markets Unit the statutory powers it so desperately needs to mitigate the imbalance of power between tech platforms and publishers, along with targeted interventions to support local publishers. Either or both of these would be a good place to start.”

The Digital Markets Unit, if put on a statutory footing, would have the power to step in to solve pricing disputes between news outlets and the tech giants.

Last week’s government reshuffle saw responsibility for the DMU legislation pass from the old DCMS to a new department for Science, Innovation and Technology.