IPSO Blog: Government response to the Cairncross Review

Communications and Public Affairs Officer Hanno Fenech discusses what the response might mean for future journalism

This week the Government published its response to the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of journalism in the UK and announced a series of measures aimed at helping to secure the future of the UK’s free and independent press.

The original Review looked at the overall state of the news media market including threats to the financial sustainability of publishers, the impact of search engines and social media platforms, and the role of digital advertising.

IPSO made a submission to the Review’s call for evidence which focused in part on the challenges faced by the news industry including financial difficulties and the impact of fake news and disinformation. We also highlighted the ways in which effective independent regulation can support accountable content and improve the public’s media literacy.

One of the recommendations of the Review was the creation of a media literacy strategy, and it was great to see that the Government’s response recognised the importance of media literacy initiatives and agreed that platforms should take steps to help users identify the reliability and trustworthiness of news sources. Some suggestions for doing so include giving users a better understanding of online content to enable them to distinguish between facts and opinions online.

As one of the biggest content regulators in the UK, IPSO is keenly supportive of improvements to media literacy. We believe all citizens should be equipped with appropriate levels of media literacy to make informed decisions about what sorts of news they would like to access. They should be able to identify and avoid harmful fake news and know how to identify curated and edited content displaying high-quality journalism. We would also like readers to have awareness of the methods available to seek redress from the regulated press when journalists do get things wrong.

Indeed, we have already been working on initiatives to support media literacy, notably the IPSO mark. Launched in December 2017, the IPSO mark is a visual cue which helps readers recognise edited, professionally produced content and distinguish sources accountable to independent regulation. The mark features in most national newspapers IPSO regulates as well as hundreds of local newspapers and magazines.

The Response’s recognition of the important role journalism plays in national and local democracy and its value to society in general is welcome, but highlights some of the many challenges faced by newspapers and magazines in the current climate. There may be no easy answers, but IPSO is committed to supporting our members and will be considering what further work we can do to address these challenges.

The Government’s response can be read in full here. See the complete list of recommendations from the Cairncross Review here.