Culture secretary

New culture secretary promises she will be ‘a champion of journalism’

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As Journalism Matters Week kicks off, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has pledged to be a ‘champion of journalism’ and explained why what we do matters more than ever

Journalism matters. It’s not just a slogan; it is a fundamental characteristic of our democracy. Without posts like the one you’re reading right now, we wouldn’t be able to hold those in power to account – including, of course, politicians like me.

Like countless readers, I am truly proud to live in a country that has such a thriving media scene, starting with the 850 local news titles across the UK (including the Melksham Independent News in my own constituency ).

Read more: Why The Northern Echo was shortlisted for two awards – and how to vote

These local newspapers act as our neighborhood watch. They listen to their communities – keeping local public services on fire, monitoring what is happening in local courts and providing a valuable platform for causes and community groups.

But we also need the reporters and editors who work in the national press and broadcast media, and who are equally vital to our democracy. Their front pages lead the national conversation. Their presenters ask the questions we all want answered. And their investigations shape our society by exposing wrongdoing.

So this week is the perfect opportunity for me to make it clear that as Secretary of State, I’m going to be a champion of journalism in every way possible. For me, it starts with one of the most pressing things in my inbox: making this industry thrive in the digital age.

Read more: Journalism Matters Week: What Owen Meredith of the News Media Association says

It hasn’t always been easy. While the internet has transformed all of our lives for the better, I know it has also completely uprooted the business models of local publishers. It is true that online readership of local media is up 18% from last year. But it’s clear that big tech has swallowed up much of the advertising market and contributed to the closure of too many newsrooms.

Journalism is just as important in 2022 as it was before the rise of the internet. So this government is committed to doing a number of things to protect it.

We will repeal Article 40, which would threaten media freedom and risk the financial ruin of publishers. We’ve revamped our world-leading online safety bill to protect free speech and ensure Silicon Valley monoliths can’t censor quality journalism on a whim.

And we’re stepping in to stop the biggest tech players from using their market dominance to abuse other businesses and consumers. Our new regulator, the Digital Markets Unit, will level the playing field between news publishers and big tech, especially when it comes to getting paid fairly for the news stories they create . After all, good journalism doesn’t come free.

2 Together, these elements should give journalists the space and support they need to thrive, regardless of new technologies.

Unfortunately, one thing seems to have survived the digital age. Being a journalist is always so risky. Indeed, thanks to the reach of social networks, cases of intimidation, threats – and in rare cases – violence are increasing.

While the UK certainly does not face the same challenges as other countries, one incident of abuse is one too many. No one should have to put up with that bile just to do their job.

I will therefore continue our national action plan to ensure that journalists in the UK can operate without fear for their safety. Together with industry partners, the police and other actors, we are committed to reducing the number of attacks and threats against journalists and ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice.

I intend to do my part to help this vital industry thrive. But newspapers also need your support. Ultimately, it’s you – the readers – who keep your local Gazette, Inquirer or Bugle up and running.

When you buy a newspaper or visit a news website, you are doing much more than keeping up with the latest news or gossip. You support an institution that keeps this country running.