Home Secretary Theresa May’ SOE keynote speech on the future of newspapers

Rather than live tweeting the Society of Editors conference, I thought it might be easier to blog it and have a written record to mull over. So these notes are taken live, and then tidied up and posted via Blogger email.

Home Secretary Theresa May, keynote speaker, said the most serious issues faced by journalism was falling sales and advertising.

She said somber reductions meant that newspapers would soon disappear, and the market would shrink and disappear, but that she remembered when something similar was said about cinema – killed by tv, video, DVD etc, and: “They are still with us and doing well.”

Talking about the future of newspapers, the home secretary seemed to work on the basis that people grow older and automatically become newsprint readers. Personally, I think they might possibly become readers but that's not assume they will buy papers. To be fair, she did go on to discuss the various platforms though.

“I believe that newspapers will survive the onslaught of new technology but the industry that emerges will be very different. Young people get their news from the Internet as they grow older they may buy papers as their tastes change… lots of people already pay for news on devices.”

She acknowledged local newspapers were having a particularly hard time partly because of BBC dominance, especially thorough the subsidy of the license fee.

She said emerging BBC dominance and expansion at local level posed the question of what reason was left for local readers to buy a paper. She said: “It is destroying local newspapers and it is dangerous for local politics too.”

She said the impact of BBC locally had been discussed with her local paper in Maidenhead: “This is a debate that won't go away and the BBC has to think carefully about it's impact locally and on local democracy.”

She said she thought local papers would survive despite the internet. “I think newspapers will survive despite the internet. A plurality of resources is essential to our democracy. If newspapers are forced to close down we could see the rise of monopolies.”

Referencing Orwell's1984, she said malpractice inefficiency and corruption were a danger.

“Competition in the provision of news is essential in democracy and that is why it is important the Internet does not dilute the plurality.”

She said the quality of debate relied on many voices but the media and newspapers were crucial and the transparency was critical; comparing national and regional journalism, she added sensationalisation of news was one reason people would believe their local newspapers more than a national one.

“It is essential that newspapers reflect people's opinion and poplar opinion. Not everything promotes democracy but beyond entrainment and gossip the public wants information on how elected representatives do their jobs and how their money is spent.”

And she was empathic around the ability of people to live cover their local council meetings: “Local councils must stop trying to arrest people for trying to film or blog council meeting.”

On the Royal Charter: “I believe in a free press and it is vital if we live in a democracy. There is cross party agreement for a royal charter and most politicians have now wish to censor the press. We are all engaged in trying to protect press freedom.”

She said she understood how difficult the debate was and hoped that through trust it could be made to work.

She said she wanted to celebrate freedom of the press and that the role of the press was vital in democratic freedoms.

“A future without a diversity of newspapers is much grimmer than the alternative.”

Asked what the government would do about the BBC, she said: “One of the challenges is changing behaviour without banning media outlets from opting in specific markets. The BBC needs go think about what it is doing.

“They are dominating the market in a way that prevents others from operating.”

However… “The government is not about to legislate.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s