‘Future of News’ inquiry: Restoring trust requires radical reforms to plurality, impartiality and accountability

By Media Reform Coalition / Wednesday February 14, 2024 Read More


As part of the House of Lords Communications Committee’s inquiry on the future of news, the Media Reform Coalition has submitted evidence calling for major reforms to the UK’s plurality regulations, Ofcom’s oversight of impartiality and new processes for securing the independence of public media.

The Committee’s inquiry is the latest of many parliamentary investigations exploring the crises of low trust and collapsing funding for journalism, with this inquiry focusing on “the impact of tech platforms and generative AI on news media business models”.

Search engines, social media and news aggregators have fundamentally altered how most news organisations produce, distribute and monetise news content, and transformed how audiences discover, access and interact with news in the online media environment. However, as we argue in our submission, many of the changes brought about by the role of ‘Big Tech’ in news are seriously harming the UK’s news and journalism ecology.

Our headline arguments and recommendations for the Inquiry are:


  • The domination of the online news environment by a handful of Big Tech companies – Meta, Alphabet and X Corp – has helped to entrench the already dangerous levels of concentrated ownership across the UK news landscape.
  • The logics and algorithms these platforms employ to curate, distribute and monetise news content have weakened the incentives for producing high-quality, accurate and trusted news – with news outlets prioritising highly shareable or misleading content to attract traffic and digital advertising revenues.
  • The UK’s plurality regulations need to be enhanced to account for the significant role that platforms play in how news is produced, distributed, monetised and accessed. Ofcom needs new assessment criteria to account for how these platforms amplify the reach of dominant ‘traditional’ news outlets, along with stronger legislative powers for remedying severe concentrations in media ownership.

Generative AI and trust

  • While there is much hype about AI, there is currently little concrete evidence about its impact on the daily practices of news production. There is an urgent need for greater public transparency within news organisations regarding how AI is being used, paired with proactive policy developments for AI governance frameworks based on protecting democratic values.
  • The economic consequences of AI could be far-reaching, and could exacerbate the current crises in sustainable funding for high-quality, public interest news. Existing algorithms employed by Big Tech platforms in the news sector have already demonstrated serious failings in helping to fund and disseminate fake news.

Impartiality and Ofcom

  • The rise of hyper-partisan broadcast news outlets – GB News and TalkTV – have exposed the weaknesses of Ofcom’s regulatory powers, and its inconsistent application of its legislative duties in relation to impartiality.
  • The Media Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, should be amended to reform and strengthen how Ofcom is tasked with developing and applying its Broadcasting Code. This should include defining in legislation the kinds of news output that are regulated for due impartiality, accuracy and harmful content – rather than leaving this to Ofcom’s (often highly politicised) interpretations.


  • An essential starting point for rebuilding trust in news is strengthening the media’s
    independence – such as by removing the Government’s ability to directly appoint the Chair of
    the BBC or Channel 4, and replacing these appointments with an independent transparent
    process with direct public participation.
  • Revitalising public interest journalism will require far deeper structural changes than are likely to be achieved in any Bills currently being debated in parliament. Future reforms to public media must include removing the Secretary of State’s discretionary powers over funding, quotas, regulations and appointments, as well as creating new mechanisms for direct public participation in funding, democratic governance and community content production across our media landscape.