Jeremy Hunt may look at 'single regulatory structure' for multimedia newspaper content
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he will look at whether a "single regulatory structure" could be formed to regulate newspaper content across all platforms, including print, television and online, if the industry can "come up with a regulatory structure that has the confidence of the public".
In an interview with Steve Hewlett, following a keynote address to the Nations & Regions conference in Salford on Monday, Hunt said it was a "major priority" for himself and the public "to clear up some of the outrageous practices happening" in the press, as highlighted in evidence and allegations made to the Leveson inquiry.
Hunt said that as regulation of the industry is given an "overhaul" it provides an opportunity "to recognise that we are in a multimedia age".
"Newspapers have an incredibly important contribution to make to our democracy ... they need to reinvent their business model.
"The elephant in the room in Leveson is that newspapers are losing money and their ability to finance what people take for granted as a really important part of the democratic process is being undermined by the fact they're losing so much money.The elephant in the room in Leveson is that newspapers are losing money and their ability to finance what people take for granted ... is being undermined by the fact they're losing so much moneyJeremy Hunt
"I propose this, if the industry can come up with a regulatory structure that has the confidence of the public, in terms of dealing with the excesses that the public are so shocked by, then I will look at whether we could have a single regulatory structure that will cover their entire output, whether it's TV, online, video-on-demand or print.
"That I think could be a very important structural change which would equip them for the future."
He said this would not see Ofcom taking on the regulation of the press.
"What I'm saying is as things stand at the moment Ofcom would end up regulating all their TV content and the public would want that because they don't have confidence in the way the press have been regulating themselves."
He added that if the newspaper industry can "come up with a good structure" itself then he would look at whether this body could regulate newspaper content across multiple platforms.
This could mean potentially two bodies regulating content on television, he said.
During his keynote address Hunt focused on local television, with 2012 being "the year of local TV", according to the culture secretary, announcing the further removal of restrictions relating to local television ownership in a bid to encourage a cross-platform approach to regional broadcasting.
He said this would enable the "new generation of local TV operators [to] lead the world in truly cross-platform services" and an ongoing "revolution in local media" as news outlets work to bring content to multiple platforms.
"Rather than being a revolution in local TV, I see this as a revolution in local media.
"... The big challenge for the press, we're hearing some of this as the Leveson inquiry progresses, is how to move from being a newspaper provider to being a news provider, to providing news that is accessible across many different technology platforms and to end up being completely neutral as to whether your consumers access your news product from traditional newsprint, on an iPhone, on an iPad on TV or online.
"Creating an environment which makes that possible is what I hope will mean our new generation of local TV operators will lead the world in truly cross-platform services."
He added that this is why cross-media ownership rules were removed at a local level, adding that he can also announce the removal of restrictions on independent TV producers "from owning outright local TV licences".
"So independent TV producers previously have not been able to own local TV licences as that would classify them as a broadcaster. There is an exemption for that under European law for local TV providers. We will be taking advantage of that exemption so that independent producers will, if they choose, not only be able to be part of a consortium bidding for local TV but be able to own a licence outright."
He told the audience that initial sceptics of local TV are now "much more positive than they ever have been".
He added that there has also been a "big change in the local newspaper industry, where they started with outright hostility to local TV and have moved in a number of local cities to real enthusiasm to own and operate a licence in their area".
Free daily newsletter
- Who pays when a journalist is bribed?
- Yes, we need to regulate Facebook. But how?
- 'Give Ofcom the power to demand Facebook to explain its algorithms', Full Fact urges UK parliament
- Rusbridger: Facebook needs to be cut some slack on news and regulation
- Josh Hinkle of KXAN on translating solutions journalism to local TV news