A wide-ranging report into the future of the news in the UK has concluded that government intervention may be the only solution in the face of the “market failure” of the industry.
It said that the power of online platforms captured the majority of online advertising revenues, making it hard for traditional publishers, such as newspapers, to compete effectively.
In order to create a “level playing field”, it called for the creation of new codes of conduct, overseen by a regulator, to “re-balance” the relationship.
It also asks ministers to look at new tax breaks for “public interest” journalism, with direct funding for local public interest news.
The review noted that investigative journalism and “democracy reporting” - such as local courts and councils - were the areas under the greatest threat, as they rarely paid for themselves.
The review, chaired by former senior journalist and academic Dame Frances Cairncross, was commissioned by Theresa May to investigate the sustainability of quality journalism in the face of declining newspaper sales and falling revenues.
It recommended the creation of a new institute of public interest news, along the lines of the Arts Council, to channel a combination of public and private finance into those parts of the industry deemed most worthy of support.
The Society of Editors, which campaigns for media freedom, welcomed the findings but warned of the dangers of government-imposed regulation of the media.
Executive director Ian Murray said: “It is extremely gratifying that Dame Frances and her panel have underscored the need to protect and indeed reinvigorate the reporting of local democracy and open justice, areas which have suffered and continue to suffer as the industry contracts
“Crucial to all of the recommendations for what is really state support for the local media industry in particular, are the report’s insistence that bodies such as the proposed Institution are free from political and other interference in deciding what constitutes public interest news worth supporting.
“The press in the UK has not fought long and hard to maintain its independence and freedom to then find itself regulated by state-appointed bodies, no matter how well meaning was their original creation.”
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright also welcomed the review’s findings, saying that while some could be acted on immediately, others would require “further careful consideration” with interested parties on the way forward.