THE EDITOR’S CHAIR: It’s time the government recognised that readers need us, says Gary Cullum

– none more so than now when reliable and trustworthy news brands have served the public effectively during the coronavirus pandemic.

But how much longer will they have an effective voice if the government doesn’t act quickly to curb the might of the tech giants? Facebook and Google control 80% of the £14bn digital advertising spend while national, regional and local news brands are struggling for survival on just 4% of that ad pot.

This issue of PJ reports why journalism matters; indeed that’s the heading on the opposite page as we report on the News Media Association campaign of the same name, held earlier this month.

Newsbrands large and small, national, regional and local took part and there were messages of support from The Queen, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leading politicians on why purveyors of reliable, trusted news are so vitally important – especially now, in the Covid era when readers need reliable news and information.

Trusted news sources filter out all the fake news, disinformation and chatter that social media platforms produce endlessly.

As the NMA’s week-long Journalism Matters campaign took place, a major new study, World Without News, revealed that 66% of those surveyed appreciate and value journalism more since the start of the global pandemic.

The survey carried out by Newsworks, the marketing body for UK national newspapers, showed that against a backdrop of fake news, disinformation and attacks on free speech, the figures jumped starkly among the under 35s, with 77% valuing the work of journalists more now in providing reliable information and news.

You’ll find more stats on page 4 of printed PJ where Jo Allan, managing director of Newsworks, says the research shows the importance of quality news, with increasing numbers of people turning to news brands during the pandemic.

While the above stats are positive and encouraging, news media must be treated fairly. The industry is cut to its core and without government intervention many more news brands will struggle or die at a time when they are needed most.

The NMA and its members have repeatedly called on the UK government to intervene to protect journalism before it is too late. The news industry is operating on the revenue crumbs left behind by Google and Facebook – yet it is the news media that creates the content that the tech giants feed off without paying for any of it. Our government must respond to this untenable situation.

Minister of State for Media and Data John Whittingdale says it remains his ‘absolute priority’ to do all he can to support local news outlets, which are the cornerstone of a rich and varied media landscape. He has urged the public to buy their local newspaper and support ‘this valuable industry.’

Actions speak louder than words Mr Whittingdale.