NMA: AI’s impact on journalism requires immediate attention from next government

NMA: AI’s impact on journalism requires immediate attention from next government

News media trade body the News Media Association (NMA), in co-ordination with editors from local, regional and national news publications, has renewed calls for fresh measures to protect and promote the sustainability and freedom of UK news media ahead of the 4 July general election.

In a manifesto published on Wednesday, the NMA outlined five key policy areas it believes requires immediate attention from the next government.

They are:

  • AI and intellectual property
  • Press freedom
  • A new settlement between commercial news publishers and the BBC
  • Promoting media plurality
  • Recognising the importance of local media to devolution and local growth


“The proposals put forth in this manifesto are crucial for safeguarding the sustainable future of independent, trusted UK news media,” said CEO Owen Meredith. “We hope all political parties will commit in their manifestos to support a free and sustainable press.”

AI and IP

Earlier this month, Meredith warned that Google’s new AI Overview feature, among other changes to bring generative AI features to search experiences, constitute a threat to journalism, especially where AI companies have scraped data from publishers to train their large language models (LLMs) without permission.

The NMA is now urging the next government to ensure publishers “can control the use of their content by LLMs and are able to consent to its use”.

That includes clarifying that publishers must be asked for consent before AI companies attempt to scrape content to feed their LLMs, with “heavy penalties” imposed on those in breach.

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“Without quality journalism to train and ground LLMs, these technologies would struggle to make sense of the world around them,” said The Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner. “A strong copyright framework, transparency around how quality journalism is scraped and used, and a willingness to stand up for the right of investors in intellectual property to receive fair compensation for the use of their work should be at the heart of a balanced approach to AI policy of the next government.”

News publishers have pursued divergent strategies for working with AI companies. Whereas The New York Times is taking Microsoft and ChatGPT developer OpenAI to court over alleged infringement on intellectual property, publishers including ReutersThe Associated PressAxel Springer (which owns Politico, Insider and Bild) and the Financial Times have cut deals to grant AI companies access to news articles in return for undisclosed sums.

Just last week, News Corp reached one such multi-year deal.

Press freedom

The NMA says action to combat strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) is essential.

In addition, it urges the next government to commit to granting journalists “proper access” to public interest information without prejudice towards any particular journalists or media organisations.

Victoria Newton, The Sun‘s editor-in-chief, said: “Preserving press freedom is essential for our democracy. A free press represents voters and enables different voices to be heard in our society, allowing the public to make fully informed decisions and share in the democratic process. But for this to continue, journalists must be able to report on matters without fear or favour, having the access necessary to inform the public.”

Commercial news and the BBC

According to the NMA, the next government must ensure the BBC does not crowd out local news publishers through its attempts to expand its own digital local news remit.

Regional editors have previously referred to the BBC as a “neighbour from hell” for its recent attempted changes to its local provision. A spokesperson for the BBC has called the criticism “misplaced and misleading” and argued that “there is no evidence that the BBC is crowding out other digital publishers”.

“Funded by the enforced licence fee, the BBC’s anti-competitive incursion risks hundreds of journalists’ jobs as it steals audience and the advertising revenues associated with them,” stated National World editorial director Gary Shipton.

Specifically, the NMA would like the next government to use the next BBC charter renewal period to place guardrails on the scope of the BBC’s online news services and to ensure future funding plans “do not have the effect of diverting revenues from commercial news publishers”.

Regional editors label BBC as ‘neighbour from hell’


Media plurality

The NMA is seeking a number of assurances that media plurality will be actively protected by the next government through regulatory interventions. Sarah Lester, editor of the Manchester Evening News, warned that, without action, “a fundamental part of our democracy is at risk”.

“The wider public is largely unaware of how much influence Big Tech has on what is served to them to read,” she said. “The next government has a responsibility to empower regulators that play a key role in bolstering a plural UK press ecosystem. This includes supporting the Digital Markets Unit to move quickly to guarantee a fair value exchange between Big Tech and trusted news publishers.”

According to the NMA, media plurality can be best assured through supporting Ofcom and bringing its media plurality rules up to date, as well as supporting the Competition & Markets Authority now that its Digital Markets Unit will become operational under the newly minted Media Act.

Supporting local media

The NMA believes the next government must explore ways to support local news media, which has been challenged by the shift from print to digital over the preceding two decades.

It suggests maintaining the requirement for local authorities to place public notices in local newspapers to maintain a “vital revenue stream” for these titles. Further, the NMA says the government should review its own adspend to better utilise local news outlets when communicating critical information to the public.

Most radically, the NMA is urging the next government to consider a local journalism tax relief and an extension of the business rates relief for local titles beyond 2025.

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