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Committee chair responds to findings of Cairncross review

11 February 2019

Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee responded to the Cairncross review:

“I welcome Dame Frances Cairncross's report on safeguarding the future of journalism. In particular I agree with her that there needs to be a broad-based code of conduct to rebalance the relationship between news providers and social media platforms, and that this should include an obligation on behalf of the platforms to help their users distinguish between quality journalism, and stories coming from organisations that have been linked to disinformation or are regarded as being unreliable sources. The social media companies could develop tools like this for themselves, or work with existing providers, such as Newsguard. The requirement for social media companies to introduce such measures could form part of a new system of content regulation on these platforms, based on a statutory code, and overseen by an independent regulator, like Ofcom.

“I would ask that the government confirms that it regards the malicious spreading of disinformation to be an online harm, as it is a direct threat to our democracy. As such I hope the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will also include measures to address this in its forthcoming white paper on Online Harms.
“I agree with the Cairncross report's recommendation that online digital newspapers and magazines should also be zero rated for VAT, just as their printed versions are. This would remove the false incentive for news companies against developing more paid for digital services. The Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee also recommended in our interim report on disinformation and 'fake news' that there should be an investigation into online advertising by the Competition and Markets Authority, and particularly through the major search and social media platforms. I am pleased to see that the Cairncross report makes a similar recommendation.

“Whilst I note Dame Frances's recommendation for the creation of a new Institute for Public Interest News, I would hope that the aims set out in her report could be achieved by supporting existing bodies that work to maintain high standards in journalism, without the need to create a new organisation.”

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