What Does the UK's New Cairncross Report Mean for Music and Arts Journalism?

What Does the UK's New Cairncross Report Mean for Music and Arts Journalism?

Review on the future of journalism could have major implications for online arts media.

This week, the UK Government published the Cairncross Review on the future of journalism. Commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, it was written by academic, economist and former journalist Dame Frances Cairncross.

The 157-page review includes an in-depth analysis of the current challenges facing news media, in particular the influence and market share of companies such as Google and Facebook, and makes nine major recommendations.

Music and arts journalism
There is no specific mention of music and arts journalism, although Cairncross does discuss the impact of ‘unbundling’, whereby newspapers are finding that their traditional broad mix of news, culture and sport is unsustainable in the digital age. This has led to a reduction in music and arts coverage across many titles. In the UK, the number of journalists has dropped from an estimated 23,000 in 2007 to 17,000 today, and, Cairncross notes, ‘the numbers are still swiftly declining.’

Cairncross also illustrates the extent to which Google and Facebook now dominate the online advertising market, with significant implications for publishers and the news and arts journalists they employ. 

In 2017, the two multinationals captured 54% of all online advertising revenue in the UKGoogle also has extensive influence over how online advertising is delivered through its ad-exchange platforms. Between media agencies and these platforms, Cairncross estimates that publishers receive an average of just 62 pence from every pound that an advertiser may spend with them.

Below: a diagram from the Cairncross Review showing the 2017 market share of online advertising, with Google, Facebook and YouTube (which is owned by Google) dominant.


In the review, Cairncross’s main concern is not the broad range of journalism, from arts to sport, but rather ‘public-service news’ and specifically investigative journalism and local democracy journalism. ‘Investigative journalism and democracy reporting are the areas of journalism most worthy and most under threat’, she writes.

Cairncross makes nine recommendations, which, if implicated by the UK Government, could have a significant, positive impact on all journalism, including music and arts.

The recommendations are as follows:

1. Online platforms such as Google and Facebook should be regulated – publishers are increasingly dependent on these platforms for traffic and therefore the commercial relationship should be governed by a new code of conduct, overseen by a regulator;

2. The workings of the online advertising market should be investigated to ensure fair competition;

3. Online platforms should have a ‘News Quality Obligation’ and their efforts to improve users’ news experience should be under regulatory supervision;

4. The UK Government should develop a media literacy strategy for the public;

5. The BBC’s market impact and role should be assessed, and how it can assist commercial news publishers better;

6. An innovation fund for public-service news should be established;

7. New forms of tax relief to support public-interest journalism should be developed;

8. The Department should provide direct funding for local public-interest news;

9. An Institute for Public Interest News should be established to ensure the sustainability of the sector.

For the full report, see below. For more, visit www.gov.uk.

Published on 13 February 2019


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