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Google and Facebook news need regulation to restore trust

Sky News logo Sky News 12/02/2019
a screenshot of a cell phone: The reviews wants companies such as Google and Facebook to have a 'news quality obligation' © Other The reviews wants companies such as Google and Facebook to have a 'news quality obligation'

Google and Facebook should be made to improve trust in the content they host, a review has found.

The Cairncross review, commissioned by the government, recommended that tech giants should have a "news quality obligation" which would be overseen by a regulator.

The wide-ranging report examined the future of the UK news industry.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MAY 22: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY  MANDATORY CREDIT - 'EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) walks with President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani (L) before testifying to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on May 22, 2018. (Photo by European Parliament / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) © Getty BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MAY 22: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) walks with President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani (L) before testifying to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on May 22, 2018. (Photo by European Parliament / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It made a number of recommendations, including encouraging tax breaks for "public interest" journalism and direct funding from taxpayer and private sources for local public interest news.

The review concluded that a lack of market interest in the public interest news, such as reporting on local courts and councils, may mean government intervention may be the sole solution.

a screen shot of a social media post: Online news publications access to ad revenue needs to be supported, the review said © Getty Online news publications access to ad revenue needs to be supported, the review said It also recommended that broadcasting regulator Ofcom should conduct an exploration of the market impact of BBC News.

The review said tech companies such as Google and Facebook absorb the lion's share of online advertising revenues, which makes it difficult for traditional publishers, such as newspapers, to compete.

To combat this, the review suggested the creation of new codes of conduct, including rules such as not imposing their own advertising software on news publishers. It would be overseen by a regulator.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the European Parliament, prior to his audition on the data privacy scandal on May 22, 2018 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the European Parliament, prior to his audition on the data privacy scandal on May 22, 2018 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images) "While each platform should devise solutions which best fit the needs of their particular users, their efforts should be placed under regulatory scrutiny - this task is too important to leave entirely to the judgement of commercial entities," the review said.

It continued: "If it becomes clear that efforts have not increased the reach of high-quality news, or had a measurable impact on the quality of people's engagement with online news, it may be necessary to impose stricter provisions."

a man wearing a suit and tie: Jeremy Wright: 'A healthy democracy needs higher quality journalism to thrive' © Sky News Screen Grab Jeremy Wright: 'A healthy democracy needs higher quality journalism to thrive'

Chaired by former senior journalist and academic Dame Frances Cairncross, the review was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May to detail the sustainability of quality journalism as industry revenue falls.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright welcomed the findings. He said a number of the recommendations could be acted on immediately, while others would need "further careful consideration".

He added: "A healthy democracy needs high quality journalism to thrive and this report sets out the challenges to putting our news media on a stronger and more sustainable footing, in the face of changing technology and rising disinformation."

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