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#DM16: Helen Goodman MP defends journalists & journalism

© Paul Herrmann

15 April 2016

Good journalism faces two threats - economic and technological change. Local newspapers continue to close and now ad blocking and the new net giants threaten the business models of national newspapers as they evolve digitally, Helen Goodman MP told DM.

The “stunning” revelations of the Panama papers, teased out by the excellent, diligent work by journalists working through the thousands of files, showed just how important journalism was for holding the rich and powerful to account, she said.

But local and national journalism face difficult challenges, she said. The closure of the print Independent titles and the mass cuts at the Guardian were an indication of the fragile ecology of the industry, she said. After meeting the Guardian’s management, she realised the many problems, such as ad blocking software and the dominance of the net behemoths, with the present business model. That was why the European Union had a role to play in stopping the huge power of the Googles and the Yahoos.

If they can do it for local pubs, why can’t they do it for local newspapers? The Labour MP for Bishop Auckland and chair of the NUJ’s Parliamentary Group, said she had lobbied for making local papers “assets of community value”, giving communities the chance to buy a title before it is put out for sale or closed.

"The other threat to journalists and journalism is this government,” she said. “The secretary of state threatened to weaken the BBC, privatise Channel 4 and stop the Leveson reforms, while the home secretary's investigatory powers bill threatened unchecked snooping on journalists. Labour will fight for independent judicial oversight as this bill goes through parliament."

Helen had chaired a NUJ Parliamentary Group meeting in Parliament about public service broadcasting. She said:

“At the meeting Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, outlined the unique service the channel provided for young and minority audiences; but this would not be possible if it was privatised. Of the £1bn it has made, £600m has been re-invested in programming. The Secretary of State should listen to the people who know about the business."

She said the BBC management was also to blame for agreeing to take on the licence fees of the over-75s. She said it was a “shoddy deal”.

Helen also highlighted the extensive international solidarity work done by the Parliamentary Group, including supporting journalists in Somalia, Mexico, Yemen, Palestine. “I have been in correspondence with the embassies of many of these governments. Progress is slow, but we will keep fighting.”

She said she had been honoured to take on the chair of the group, following the elevation of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to the leader and shadow chancellor of the Labour Party. “This is clearly the route to the top,” she said.

Tags: , parliament, parliamentary group, parliament uk, legislation, mps, local news matters, community asset, bbc, channel 4, leveson, investigatory powers bill, surveillance, snoopers' charter, trade union bill, ifj, international, solidarity, somalia, mexico, yemen, palestine, dm16, dm2016