A new report
published by the Carnegie UK Trust says tougher regulation is needed, but it won’t be enough on its own to restore trust and strengthen the supply of good journalism.
In addition to promoting the idea of a new code of conduct, the report – Better Journalism in the Digital Age
– says a new regulatory framework for the press is required. This system should be independent of both government and the newspaper industry and should be voluntary, but with very strong incentives for joining. Only participating news outlets would obtain the benefits of press accreditation and recognition, the arrangements which give journalists privileged access and facilities at important places and events.
But the report stresses that stronger or smarter regulation is only one of a number of levers needed to secure better journalism: “The work of regulation is largely that of eliminating various forms of bad behaviour, whereas the public interest also requires positive actions in support of good journalism. Tougher regulation on its own is not enough.”
Other recommendations include:
- The maintenance or strengthening of public service broadcasting to ensure that not all news ventures are commercially driven
- Civil society organisations offering help to fund new initiatives to ensure greater quality and diversity of news sources
- A renewed emphasis in journalism education and training on professional ethics, including a clear commitment to understanding and upholding the public interest
- Extending the availability and take-up of high-speed broadband to enable universal access to a wide range of digital news
- Industry regulators, universities, civil society organisations and the news media should encourage more public debate around media ethics and behaviour.
The report author Blair Jenkins
– a former Head of News and Current Affairs at both BBC Scotland and STV, Chair of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, and now a Carnegie Fellow – says the public should have higher expectations of journalists, and journalists should have higher expectations of themselves:
“Journalism is based on trust and integrity and that needs to be reflected in a new industry-wide code of conduct. It should be inspiring and authentic for all journalists, but also sufficiently clear and reassuring for the public who depend upon those journalists for reliable news and information.
“The independent regulatory system proposed for the press would strike a new balance. You only get the many benefits of being a serious news operation if you also live up to the obligations. If you want the accreditation that gets you special access to the big stories, you have to sign up to decent and reasonable standards.”
The report has been forwarded as a formal submission to The Leveson Inquiry.
Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive, Martyn Evans
, says the future role of the media is a central part of the work of the Trust:
“The Carnegie UK Trust has always been clear that this is about more than the media being accountable and working to minimum standards – important though these are – because journalism is a central pillar of a free democratic society. It’s about raising the ceiling and nurturing innovative journalism so that more media does not mean lower standards or poorer accountability. This issue is too important to be left to those who own and operate media organisations. We all have to help shape the future of news by making our voices heard and by supporting civil society and academia to invest in objective journalism.”
Caroline Diehl, chief executive of communications charity Media Trust
"The UK's standards of journalism are among the best in the world, and it's vital that these standards are maintained and celebrated. High quality news reporting across our communities, particularly reaching into diverse and marginalised communities to give them a voice, is a driver of democratic accountability.
“Media Trust will continue to facilitate and support professional journalists to play a key role in enabling that voice, and in encouraging citizens and communities to engage with news media. We welcome the ideas and debate in this report."
Notes to Editors
For media enquiries about Better Journalism in a Digital Age please contact Esther Black on firstname.lastname@example.org
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Blair Jenkins OBE
has been Director of Broadcasting at Scottish Television (STV), and Head of News and Current Affairs at both STV and BBC Scotland. He chaired the Scottish Broadcasting Commission in 2007-8 and more recently the Scottish Digital Network Panel. In 2010 he was made an OBE for services to broadcasting. He is a Fellow of the Carnegie UK Trust and Visiting Professor in Journalism at Strathclyde University.
The Carnegie UK Trust
works to improve the lives of people throughout the UK and Ireland, by changing minds through influencing policy, and by changing lives through innovative practice and partnership work. We are one of over 20 foundations worldwide endowed by Scots American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Better Journalism in the Digital Age
forms part of the Trust’s on-going work on journalism standards, education and ethics
. In 2010, a Carnegie Commission
concluded that civil society has to have a role in shaping the future of the news media to safeguard local democracy and hold policymakers to account, followed by a discussion document
in 2011 to encourage wider engagement in the debate about regulation.