The Cairncross Review: Tories move to subsidise the Mainstream media

A public consultation is underway that may lead to the mainstream media receiving public subsidies. The Cairncross review is a new review to examine the sustainability of high-quality journalism and examine how it could be funded in changing times. This can be assumed to be the government’s response to the drop in print circulation of the mainstream in favour of a diverse range of online new media outlets.

The review has sparked controversy as is seen by many to be a government initiative to put in place whatever policies the corporate mainstream media need to stay as the dominant power in the British press.

The review panel consists of representatives from the Mainstream media with the independent media having no representation.

The panel consists of these figures:

Chair: Dame Francis Cairncross, former Economist, Guardian and Times writer

1 Jo Adetunji, deputy editor at The Conversation UK
2 Geraldine Allinson, chairman of regional publisher the KM Group
3 Azeem Azhar, senior adviser to the chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture and runs tech newsletter Exponential View
4 Polly Curtis, editor of HuffPost UK and formerly digital editor at the Guardian
5 Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press
6 Douglas McCabe, tech and publishing media expert
7 Akshat Rathi, reporter at Quartz and formerly of The Economist and The Conversation
8 Matt Rogerson, head of public policy at Guardian publisher the Guardian Media Group
9 Mimi Turner, founder of brand strategy consultancy Mimi Turner Associates who has been “instrumental” in growing UK media brands including Lad Bible and Vice Media. Spent three years working for Richard Desmond as group director of communications at Express Newspapers.
10 Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association
11 Peter Wright, editor emeritus at Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers and former editor of the Mail on Sunday (1998-2012).

Despite many independent media outlets meeting the definition to be considered in the press industry, none have representation.

The review’s sordid intentions can be seen in the former Culture secretary Matt Hancock’s comments about the review, stating:

Although the internet has been an immense force for good, it has torn apart the established order

And according to Brian Cathcart from the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm), the consultation is:

“little more than a device to help [the former Culture Secretary Matt Hancock] justify giving fresh public subsidies to his friends and supporters in the corporate press.”

Whilst the British corporate Media remains the least trusted in Europe the government defines their friends in the press as high-quality journalism.

Equally, unlike Corbyn’s media reform proposals, any public money that would go to the mainstream media would not come from the new tech monopolies like Facebook but instead from the public purse or the license fee pot. Public subsidies present a clear danger to an independent press and especially if handed out as selectively as the review panel was chosen.

I would urge supporters of a free, quality independent journalism to get involved. The review is still in its public consultation stage and to give your view on the future of journalism you can email, or you can complete the questionnaires on the official government consultation documents by following this link.


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