Cairncross Review: reactions from PPA, NMA, BBC, Google, Facebook and more

Reactions: Collins, Meredith and Watson
Reactions: Collins, Meredith and Watson

Industry and politicians respond to much-anticipated report into future of UK news media.

The Cairncross Review has published its much-anticipated report today, with a series of recommendations for safeguarding the future of UK journalism.

The recommendations include a Competition & Markets Authority investigation into the online ad industry, new codes of conduct to ensure quality online journalism and zero VAT on online publications.

Here is a round-up of industry reaction to the report.

Owen Meredith, managing director, PPA 

"The PPA welcomed the review and thank Dame Frances and her team for the detailed work they have undertaken in compiling the report and recommendations. We are particularly pleased that the review has listened to evidence submitted by the PPA on behalf of consumer magazine and business information publishers, and has adopted our key proposals. 

"Notably, in recommending the extension of the zero-rate of VAT to digital publications, the review has acknowledged the bizarre anomaly in the current tax system and the barrier this creates for innovation and product development in publishing. The government should now act to axe the reading tax at the earliest opportunity." 

The News Media Association

"This is a thoughtful report which recognises the critical role of written journalism to democracy and sets out a series of detailed recommendations, many of which respond directly to the proposals put forward by the NMA and our members.

"These include a Competition & Markets Authority market study into the ‘complex and opaque’ online advertising market, new measures aimed at constraining the behaviour of the online platforms, an examination of the BBC’s impact on commercial publishers, funding support for local news publishers and tax reliefs such as extending VAT zero rating for online news publications.

"We look forward to engaging with the government to discuss the Cairncross recommendations in more detail and how these should be taken forward as a matter of urgency to ensure they support independent journalism delivered by a strong and sustainable press." 

The Advertising Association

"The Advertising Association represented the UK’s advertising industry as part of the Cairncross Review and totally supports the need for the long-term sustainability of quality independent journalism. When it comes to the specifics of the online advertising market, we believe, as always, that any work in this area must be proportionate and evidence-based, ultimately to ensure that everyone in the advertising eco-system – advertiser, agency, media or tech company – makes the right contribution to help businesses and our economy grow. 

"The UK leads the world both in the quality of its journalism and as an innovative and highly developed digital advertising market and it’s in everyone’s interest to find the right long-term and relationships between to ensure both go from strength to strength."

Damian Collins, chair, Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee

"I welcome Dame Frances Cairncross' report on safeguarding the future of journalism. In particular, I agree with her that there needs to be a broad-based code of conduct to rebalance the relationship between news providers and social media platforms and that this should include an obligation on behalf of the platforms to help their users distinguish between quality journalism and stories coming from organisations that have been linked to disinformation or are regarded as being unreliable sources.

"The social media companies could develop tools like this for themselves or work with existing providers, such as Newsguard. The requirement for social media companies to introduce such measures could form part of a new system of content regulation on these platforms, based on a statutory code and overseen by an independent regulator, like Ofcom.

"I would ask that the government confirms that it regards the malicious spreading of disinformation to be an online harm, as it is a direct threat to our democracy. As such, I hope the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport will also include measures to address this in its forthcoming white paper on Online Harms.

"I agree with the Cairncross report's recommendation that online digital newspapers and magazines should also be zero-rated for VAT, just as their printed versions are. This would remove the false incentive for news companies against developing more paid for digital services. The Digital, Culture Media & Sport Committee also recommended in our interim report on disinformation and 'fake news' that there should be an investigation into online advertising by the Competition & Markets Authority, and particularly through the major search and social media platforms. I am pleased to see that the Cairncross report makes a similar recommendation.

"Whilst I note Dame Frances' recommendation for the creation of a new Institute for Public Interest News, I would hope that the aims set out in her report could be achieved by supporting existing bodies that work to maintain high standards in journalism, without the need to create a new organisation."

Tom Watson, shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport

"Dame Cairncross has adopted a number of Labour’s policies, such as tax reliefs for public-service journalism, but attacking the BBC is barking up the wrong tree. 

"While she has recommended an inquiry into BBC news online, the real fundamental problem that the government must now deal with is the duopoly in the digital advertising market, with over half of all revenues going to Facebook and Google. As long as tech giants continue to completely dominate the market, it’s difficult to see how a sustainable financial footing for journalism can be achieved."

Richard Gingras, vice-president for news, Google 

"We are committed to supporting vibrant and sustainable quality journalism, directing our users to news websites more than 10 billion times a month and sharing more than 70% of any revenue generated from our ad technology with news publishers.

"We have worked closely with the Cairncross inquiry and look forward to discussing the proposals further to ensure sustainable, high-quality journalism in the UK."


"We’re deeply committed to supporting publishers in the UK, and to making sure that people see credible news on Facebook. We have engaged fully with Dame Cairncross and her team during this process, and are reviewing the recommendations put forward today. As the report acknowledges, we’ve made good progress in launching tools to help users identify reliable news on our platform, including a Context Button which tells people more about the source of stories they read on Facebook.

"We’ve also launched a £4.5 million fund, called the Community News Project, designed to support local newsrooms across the UK. We’ll continue working closely with the government, policymakers and publishers as newsrooms seek long-term, sustainable business models, and people seek credible news on Facebook." 


"We’re planning a full evaluation of the partnerships later this year. Like the review, we believe in strong local journalism and have been looking at how best to develop the work we have begun with the industry and will have more to say in the near future.

"However, there is no evidence of the BBC crowding out other providers. This was looked at extensively during charter review. It’s vital that people of all ages have access to impartial news which is relevant to them and we provide younger audiences with a wide range of stories.

"We’re happy to look at what more we can do to share our technical and digital expertise for the benefit of local publishers but, as the review itself says, any curtailing of the BBC’s news offer would be counterproductive."

Henry Faure Walker, chief executive, Newsquest Media Group 

"As Dame Cairncross says, there is no other area of journalism so important for the health of local democracy than local news, and finding a way to support local news is now a matter of urgency.

"The focus now moves on to government, who we hope will be bold and ambitious. We look forward to working with them on meaningful and high-impact solutions that will support the incredibly important role that local publishers and their public-interest journalism fulfils in communities across the length and breadth of the UK."

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