Insights News Media Association publishes policy manifesto


The News Media Association (“NMA”) has published a policy manifesto in advance of the UK general election, setting out what it sees as “the opportunities and challenges facing local, regional, and national news publishers” in the hope of working with the next government “to ensure a sustainable future for a free press”.

The manifesto broadly covers five areas: AI, the role of the BBC, press freedom, local news, and media plurality. Taking each in turn, the NMA states that AI firms continue to use publishers’ copyright content without permission, and argues that the next government “must ensure that publishers can control the use of their content by Large Language Models” (“LLMs”). It also calls for transparency obligations and mechanisms to allow publishers to negotiate with developers of LLMs for use of their content. The manifesto makes clear that this is not just necessary for news publishers to survive, but also the models themselves. It points to the phenomenon of ‘model collapse’, whereby, in the absence of reliable content from trusted news organisations, “LLMs break down under the weight of their own AI-generated misinformation”. To address these concerns about AI, the NMA issues three calls: (1) that the next government and Intellectual Property Office clarify that publishers have control over their content and must be asked before it is scraped and used to train AI models (and heavy penalties are visited on those developers who do not seek permission); (2) that AI firms are transparent in listing all content used to train LLMs and generate outputs; and (3) that the next government supports “structures and mechanisms which allow publishers and other creators to be compensated in fair and reasonable terms when their content is used by LLMs”.

Second, the manifesto states that the next government should ensure that the BBC “is prevented from distorting the digital news market and crowding out commercial publishers”, calling on the BBC itself to work collaboratively with other publishers to sustain a plural news market, and for the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) to use its new powers under the DMCC Act 2024 to ensure a level playing field. The NMA states that a new government must use the BBC Charter renewal period to address matters such as: (a) “placing guardrails on the scope of the BBC’s online news services, with proper scrutiny from Ofcom”; (b) “reshaping the objective and remit of the BBC’s online news operations to place an emphasis on collaborative working, and bolstering plurality in the local news market”; and (c) “ensuring that any future funding plans for the BBC do not have the effect of diverting revenues from commercial news publishers”.

The manifesto continues by urging the next government to ensure that any new legislation does not impinge on press freedom, and to ‘bring up to date’ legislation such as the Defamation Act, Data Protection Act, and Human Rights Act to “ensure the right balance is struck between individuals’ right to privacy and protecting the crucial democratic function of the media”. It also expects ‘legislative and non-legislative solutions’ to be put in place to combat SLAPPs and ensure that journalists are able to gain access to public information and public events.

On the question of media plurality, the NMA calls for regulatory interventions that support a “plural UK media environment”, empowering regulators such as Ofcom and the new Digital Markets Unit in the CMA to combat the rise of tech platforms and ensure trusted publishers can ‘monetise their audiences’.

Finally, the manifesto calls for a commitment to support local news publishers by, for example, requiring that local authorities place public notices in local newspapers (thereby providing a revenue stream). It also suggests consideration of a local journalism tax relief and an extension of the business rates relief for local titles beyond 2025.

Commenting on the manifesto, Owen Meredith, NMA chief executive, said: “The proposals put forward in this manifesto are crucial for safeguarding the sustainable future of independent, trusted UK news media. We hope all political parties will commit in their manifestos to support a free and sustainable press, and urge the next government to prioritise these issues and work collaboratively with stakeholders to support media plurality in the UK. A free and sustainable press is essential for upholding democracy and informing the public, and the necessary measures must be taken to ensure its longevity.”

To read the manifesto in full, click here.