UCLan research cited in government news industry report

14 February 2019

Clare Cook’s projects inform evidence in Cairncross Review

Recommendations from University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) researcher Clare Cook have been cited in the government’s final report into the future of the UK news industry, with recommendations on how to safeguard the future sustainability of the UK press.

The Cairncross Review has been commissioned to find out how to sustain journalism’s future. The ways in which news is provided and the ways people find and read it are changing more rapidly and radically than ever before. But this digital revolution is bringing enormous challenges to the future of news provision.

The Review from the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, was asked to consider the sustainability of the production and distribution of high-quality journalism, and especially the future of the press, in this dramatically changing market. It has looked at the overall state of the news media market, the threats to the financial sustainability of publishers, the impact of search engines and social media platforms, and the role of digital advertising.

The evidence cited included expertise Clare has developed on two research projects. One focuses on how to make hyperlocal media in the UK more sustainable by building a platform to pool content and sell it to other publishers in the news ecosystem. The other has explored how to use proximity technology to distributed news differently using decentralised connectivity in hard to reach places.

Her evidence states: “Policy needs to go further to reflect the pressing gaps in knowledge around copyright, intellectual property and news values - who owns what, who has rights to what and who can monetise what. Communication infrastructures tackling rural and isolated communities where internet connectivity remains slow or patchy, or where access to data plans is cost prohibitive, should be explored. As news distribution moves increasingly digital only, it is essential to ensure that access to that digital environment is equitable to tackle the digital divide.”

Clare, a senior lecturer in journalism in the School of Journalism, Media and Performance, said: “The most striking aspects of the change that are facing the journalism industry are its speed and its extent, with the dominance of a handful of technology platforms draining vast swathes of advertising. Commercial imperatives have crushed corporate journalism hard, while niche journalism sites are struggling to survive. This is a chronic situation for news revenue models, and urgent action needs to be taken.”

The independent review, undertaken by Dame Frances Cairncross, was tasked by the Prime Minister in 2018 with investigating the sustainability of the production and distribution of high-quality journalism. It comes as significant changes to technology and consumer behaviour are posing problems for high-quality journalism, both in the UK and globally.

Two of Clare’s reports have fed into the evidence submitted. These cover the revenue models of hyperlocal media in the UK (Cook, C. Geels K. and Bakker B (2016) Hyperlocal revenues in the UK and Europe: mapping the road to sustainability and resilience.

Clare is the co-founder of UCLan’s Media Innovation Studio, a world-leading research and innovation lab intersecting journalism, technology and communities.

The full Cairncross Review report is available to download.