Speaking at the News Media Association’s Journalism Matters parliamentary reception alongside Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, Ms Newton spoke of the power of journalism as a force for good citing examples such as The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign and the Mirror’s award-winning Partygate investigation.
She added: “However, for all of the brilliant work I've just described, we all know that our free press is increasingly under threat. Whether that be from unchecked, far reaching misinformation on the internet and unregulated social media channels; to the insidious creep of privacy laws, used and abused by wealthy individuals.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Ms Newton talked about the impact of AI on the news sector. She said: “This week, PM Rishi Sunak will host a summit at Bletchley Park on AI. The expansion of AI creates both threats and opportunities for every company, but also front-line journalism.
“Innovation in the industry is vital - it’s how we’ll all grow our audiences and future proof our newsrooms in a challenging market. Large Language Models currently derive content from news publishers, taking all the benefits from sharing trusted regulated journalism, without any payment or crucially, our permission.”
She added: “We welcome Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer’s promise of support for our press as the use of AI develops. Original journalism everywhere should be protected, as should the publishers that spend and invest in journalism.”
Talking about the impact of AI on journalism in her speech at the reception, the culture secretary said: “While we know AI has the potential to boost productivity in newsrooms and free up journalists to focus on the sort of investigative journalism at which they excel, we also know that AI is presenting a challenge to the very essence of fact finding and reporting.
“That’s why we are bringing in legislation to ensure that news outlets get fair compensation for their material.”
Ms Frazer told the audience of around 100 parliamentarians, policy makers, journalists and publishers: “Your reporting without fear or favour, calling out wrongful activity and evil, combatting mis and dis information – these are the signs of a true democracy.
“Freedom of the press is not actually about media freedom, it’s about our freedom. Through your reporting, you are protecting the freedom of others. And in a world of social media, mainstream media plays a critical role.
Ms Newton welcomed government action to tackle the threat of SLAPPs to freedom of speech describing them as “a serious misuse of public resources and an abuse of our legal system.”
She added: “Ministers must uphold their commitment to repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 - a commitment made in the Conservative manifestos in 2017 and 2019. If S40 was ever enacted, it would have a truly chilling impact on journalism, and the work of smaller publications and local newspapers in particular.
“The NMA has welcomed provisions in the Media Bill to repeal this pernicious piece of legislation. We expect and hope it will feature in the King's Speech next week. Section 40 needs banishing from the Statute books for good.”
“Talking about the digital markets, Ms Newton added: “It's also important that the Government holds to its position on the introduction of the Digital Markets Unit. We are told that, after intensive lobbying from the big tech firms, Ministers may allow them to launch expensive and time-consuming appeals against the decisions of the new body.
“This risks seriously undermining the impact of DMU, which is being given legal powers by the Digital Markets Bill. Ministers must stick to the existing plans to allow only quick but robust – and relatively cheap – challenges to DMU rulings.”
She added: “Original journalism everywhere should be protected, as should the publishers that spend and invest in journalism.
“I make a special mention for our vital local newspapers, without whom court cases and local democracy would go unreported. These outlets should also be protected from the BBC’s expansionist activities, which risk driving them out of the market.”Keep up-to-date with publishing news: sign up here for InPubWeekly, our free weekly e-newsletter.