Response to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee inquiry into The future of journalism
JPIMedia is one of the largest national, regional and local multimedia organisations in the UK. We provide news and information services to our communities through our portfolio of hundreds of publications and websites. Our titles span the UK: Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North East, Yorkshire, North West, South and Midlands regions of England – delivering trusted coverage of news, sport, events and information.
We welcome this inquiry into the future of journalism which comes at an important moment for the provision of news and information in the UK. As outlined in our submission to the Cairncross Review, we believe that unless existing quality content can find a significant new digital income stream, the provision of quality local content (by journalists) will become increasingly unaffordable and there will be an inevitable and rapid decline in its availability. The destructive impact will not only be on the publishers, but also journalism, local communities, media plurality and ultimately democracy. In addition to this, the COVID-19 crisis has negatively affected every aspect of regional and local newspaper’s operations and has accelerated the rate of change in the traditional publishing sector.
Trust in Journalism
JPIMedia believes that it is too simplistic to adopt a view that there has been a uniform decline in trust in journalism. Recognised news providers (across a variety of media) remain the principal method by which the majority of people access news content. All of our news publishing operations are based out with London (with many concentrating on towns and smaller communities) and are focused on reporting on and reflecting the communities in which they operate. The current crisis has served to strengthen public trust in vital providers of high-quality news and information.
Definition of Journalism
We believe that quality, sustainable, regional journalism is the creation of relevant, independent content which readers want and expect and that meets the industry's ethical standards. It is both accountable and transparent in its authorship with journalists legally responsible for what they publish. Based on fact or honest opinion, it is distinguishable from ‘fake news’.
Journalism’s Switch to Digital
Digital technologies have revolutionised the options for and methods by which journalism is disseminated and consumed. Advertising yields are largely no longer at levels which can support quality journalism in the longer term (as they have historically done). The switch to digital platforms as main news sources is increasingly pressuring publishers to look for new and different revenue streams such as subscription and membership, or other forms of reader contribution in a ‘pivot to paid’ approach that will fill in some of the gap in advertising revenue.
The economic conditions faced by our industry have meant that our publications are able to support the employment of far fewer journalists than in the past. It is our view that the training of journalists, and the adoption of new ways of working are essential for the health of our industry.
As the scope of this inquiry makes clear, the ways in which journalism is produced and consumed are changing significantly. JPIMedia believes strongly that these changes pose serious questions about the future of journalism, and we make the following recommendations to policymakers:
Competition and merger control