Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill Risks Viability of Independent Media
The Government’s Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill requirement that news media entities be subject to a “professional standards condition" threatens to curtail the role of the 4th Estate. This aspect of the legislation will limit media diversity by risking the viability of independent news sources who would prefer not to have their editorial discretion constrained, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.
“Creating a funding scheme only for regulated news media entities makes the media market increasingly uncompetitive or independent producers and limits media diversity.
“The Bill has a stated intention of supporting a “free and independent news media industry”, yet adding a requirement that to be eligible for the funding scheme, news entities need to be under the thumb of regulatory bodies or limited in their editorial decision-making is anything but.
“The explanatory note of the Bill notes it seeks to reduce risk to public trust in media by removing direct Government funding of media, an implicit reference to the Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF), which this scheme is supposed to replace.
“The issue with the PIJF was not simply with direct Government funding, but the strings that came attached to it. This Bill is no better as the strings remain, only indirectly. The Government needs to stop thinking it has the right to tip the scales of the news media market through its various conditions for funding."
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