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NUJ submission to the Cairncross review

20 September 2018

The NUJ welcomed the government’s appointment of Dame Frances Cairncross as chair of the review and the union continues to emphasise the importance of ensuring journalists’ voices are heard loud and clear as part of the inquiry into sustainable, high quality journalism in the UK.

The union believes that the best definition of what constitutes ‘high quality journalism’ is work that complies with the NUJ’s long-established ethical code of conduct and the NUJ’s submission to the review highlights that NUJ members work hard to produce quality content for websites and newspapers in extremely challenging circumstances.

The structural patterns across the largest publishing groups show the implementation of failing business models, extensive job cuts and derisory working conditions.

Journalists struggle to produce quality journalism while they are also struggling to live precariously and as a consequence, the union is calling for the implementation of the UK and London Living Wage in newsrooms. Companies should also be compelled to stop using unpaid or low-paid apprentices, not-paid-for interns and journalists working for free.

The union contends that it was wrong for the government to establish the Local Democracy Reporters (LDR) scheme by taking funding from the BBC licence fee. The NUJ does not question the valuable role of these new jobs, but the largest companies have been able to exploit their position and influence to secure contracts.

The NUJ believes there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the current media crisis and more often than not it has been journalists and the communities they serve who have been the hardest hit. There are a range of measures highlighted in the NUJ's submission that could be used to bolster ethical, diverse, high quality journalism that is in the public interest. 

The NUJ is calling for an economic stimulus plan for the media including arms-length government subsidies, the strategic use of central and local government advertising, tax credits, tax breaks, and a combination of funding such as grants, loans and community-share schemes.

Any new funding available must be attached to specific objectives and criteria. This should include a range of commitments to quality and ethical standards. Organisations that systematically cut corners and rely upon free content and user-generated pictures should not be entitled to receive any public subsidy, funding or support.

Policy interventions and any new resources made available should be used to bolster the proliferation of independent, pluralistic, diverse, sustainable, quality journalism. Any new funding should not be to the detriment of the BBC and it should have mechanisms in place to ensure it is independent of the government and free from political interference. 

Digital platforms have already been able to generate immense profits from leveraging content made by journalists and now they should give something back - companies that have financially benefited by reproducing news content but not creating it should now be compelled to contribute to society by funding journalism via a levy or tax. 

The NUJ believes there needs to be a proactive approach to supporting new models of media ownership with a focus on helping new entrants set up local news operations and take over newspapers that the larger publishing groups have retreated from.

Essentially, the NUJ wants to see the news media industry thrive and believes the best way to achieve this is to invest in journalism, including professionally trained reporters and photographers.

Download the full NUJ submission to the Cairncross review.

Tags: , local news matters, local democracy reporters, local journalism, local media, local news, local newspapers, local tv, government uk, cairncross review, quality journalism, ethics, public interest