In a DCMS Select Committee evidence session, the chief executive of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes spoke about the importance of quality journalism and its funding in an era marked by disinformation.
She said: “Freedom of speech is important, and these boundaries between misinformation and disinformation are not always easy to strike. What our research shows is that the public are well aware that they can trust the information they get online much less than they can what they hear from our public service broadcasters, from sources such as Sky News and from our traditional newspapers… I think freedom of speech matters and, when you look across our broader system, the very existence of our strong public service broadcasters, held to very high standards of impartiality and accuracy, and our strong newspaper industry are bulwarks against some of these problems.”
Dawes also called for fines to be introduced to the online harms regulatory process to combat how digital platforms tackle online harm and fake news, with similar sanctions having already been introduced in France and Germany.
When asked whether, given the cost of producing quality news, publishers should be remunerated by platforms for their content, Dame Melanie replied: “The Australians have recently made some moves in that area to set out some formal rules. The CMA is doing the study that I referred to earlier. It is quite a live debate… This question about news and advertising online is another important piece of the jigsaw… It is being looked at at the moment by the CMA, and we are staying quite close to that.”