Question. Theresa May recently announced a review in to the future of our Newspapers. Do you agree that high-quality journalism is a “force for good”?
Number 3 in a series of Talking Point articles in the Sevenoaks Chronicle/Kent Live – March 2018
Answer from Dr Alan Bullion, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesman for Sevenoaks
As a journalist for 20 years I know high quality journalism is a force for good. As a parliamentary candidate, I’ve seen how strong local media support our democracy, by informing voters. Good journalism can counter ‘fake news’ sources, and their potential to influence election results.
Local papers are losing circulation to social media sites, where many increasingly find news.
Local media has to compete by increasing use of blogs and micro-sites, and some are succeeding.
I believe that good journalism at all levels will be helped by our call to beef up the Freedom of Information Act, ending the right of ministers to veto the release of information by government departments.
There must be a balance on national media ownership, and its powerful influence shaping public opinion. That is why we supported the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking at newspapers.
It is clear that self-regulation by the press is inadequate. We support Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, requiring news publishers to join a press regulator which conforms to the Leveson recommendations as set out in the Royal Charter.
Liberal Democrats support international protection for journalists. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects freedom of expression and the confidentiality of journalistic sources.
Increased concentration in a few powerful media corporations is a danger to democracy. Ofcom should launch a full assessment of media plurality in the UK, of the ‘fit and proper persons test’, and whether the communications regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority, have appropriate powers to deal with concentrations of power in the digital economy.
To support individual rights in digital media we will introduce a digital bill of rights to protect your say over your own information, to limit large corporations, and to preserve the neutrality of the internet. Free media and quality journalism protect our hard-won political freedoms – and they need regulators who will help them do so.