A regulator should oversee technology giants like Google and Facebook to make sure their news content is reliable, as a government-backed report suggests.
The Cairncross Review on the future of the UK news industry said that these sites should help users identify fake news and "push people to read high-quality news".
He also supported tax relief to encourage the provision of local journalism.
Furthermore, the report required a new Institute for news of public interest.
Such a body, he said, could function similarly to the Council of Arts, channeling public and private funding to "those parts of the industry that they consider most worthy of support".
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The independent review, undertaken by former journalist Dame Frances Cairncross, was tasked with investigating the sustainability of high quality journalism.
His recommendations include measures to address "the unequal balance of power" among news publishers and online platforms that distribute their content.
Services such as Facebook, Google and Apple should continue their efforts to help readers understand how reliable a story is, and the process that decides which stories are shown should be more transparent, he said.
"Their efforts should be subject to regulatory control – this task is too important to leave the judgment of commercial bodies entirely," according to the report.
A regulator would initially only evaluate how well these sites are working, but if they are not effective, the report warns "it may be necessary to impose stricter provisions".
However, the report failed to require Facebook, Google and other technology giants to pay for the news they distribute through their platforms.
& # 39; Draconian and risky & # 39;
Dame Frances told the BBC's media editor Amol Rajan that such "draconian and risky" measures could lead to companies like Google that withdraw information services altogether.
"There are several ways we have suggested that technology companies might behave differently and may behave differently," he said.
"But they are mostly ways that do not immediately imply legislation".
The report instead recommended "new codes of conduct" whose implementation would be controlled by a regulator "with the power to insist on compliance".
Other recommendations included:
- An exploration of the impact of the BBC News market, conducted by Ofcom's transmission regulator
- Expansion of financial support for local news by extending BBC's local democracy reporting service
- An investigation into the online advertising market, conducted by the Competition Authority and markets, to ensure fair competition
Frances Cairncross has earned widespread respect as a journalist for her hard and pragmatic approach to economics.
That pragmatism is the real reason why the government has commissioned it to look forward to high quality news – and also the reason why many in the local and regional media will be disappointed by its recommendations.
What is more important than its review is what it does not do.
- It does not suggest that all social media should be regulated in the United Kingdom
- It does not suggest that social media companies pay the privilege of using news content
- It does not suggest that social media companies are treated as publishers, with legal responsibility for everything that appears on their platform
This is because the practicality of doing these things is difficult, and the experience shows that the likes of Google simply withdraw markets that do not satisfy them.
There are concrete measures that could promote local news, from tax cuts to an extension of the local democracy reporting service.
And Dame Frances certainly seemed aware of the subject that BBC News surpassed, to the extent that it is damaging the commercial sector. But this is an aspect of Ofcom.
Ultimately, as this report recognizes, when it comes to news, convenience is king. The speed, versatility and zero cost of so much news now means that, even if it is of poor quality, a generation of consumers has lost the habit of paying for news.
But quality costs If quality news has a future, consumers will have to pay. This is the main lesson of this relationship.
A local newspaper editor welcomed the report's recommendations, suggesting that the report "comes too late for so many once proud and important newspapers in the community".
James Mitchinson of the Yorkshire Post said: "The various reviews and tax recommendations … must come quickly … if we want to turn the Cairncross Magazine into something we consider instrumental in preserving what we do for generations to come."
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said some of his suggestions could be "immediately", while others would need "further consideration".
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson urged the government to counter the "duopoly" of Google and Facebook in the digital advertising market, and said that Dame Frances was "barking the wrong tree" in recommending an investigation on the BBC's online output.
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