When will we know if the UK government has shut down media operations?
The UK government says it is not shutting down media outlets because of concerns over their content, but will instead focus on “digital resilience” and ensuring “the public has access to the news”.
However, a BBC News investigation found that over the past five years, the government has cut funding to many media organisations, effectively ending any hope of media freedom in the UK.
The BBC News website uncovered the UK’s role in shutting down independent media.
In 2015, a year before Brexit was announced, the UK Government announced that it would be closing the BBC, with all of its newsrooms and radio stations.
In February 2016, the BBC announced that its staff had been “freed up” to “work elsewhere”, and the BBC said that “new, more local news, more of what people want to hear, more choice for people”.
In March, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced that they would be “temporarily” shutting down, with the closure announced by a panel of “senior BBC executives” on the BBC website.
In April, the News of the World, the tabloid newspaper, announced their closure.
In May, the Daily Telegraph, a tabloid newspaper founded in 1885, announced that their print edition would be shut down, and their digital edition would cease operations.
In June, a new independent media watchdog, the Media Reform Trust (MRT), announced that the government had “reversed” its decision to shut down the BBC and the News Corporation.
In a statement, the MRT stated that the decision to halt funding for independent media was based on “significant concerns” and that it had been made “because we do not believe it is a safe medium for the BBC to operate”.
The UK Government had previously announced plans to close the BBC following the Brexit vote, and in the 2016 Spending Review, the Government had stated that it planned to shut the BBC down “as soon as it is safe to do so”.
However the UK has continued to fund the BBC in the years since the vote, which has resulted in the establishment of the Media Reform Trust, which is tasked with reviewing the funding of media outlets and their impact on society.
On May 7, 2017, the National Audit Office (NAO) published its final report into the funding and oversight of media organisations in the United Kingdom.
According to the NAO, the funding for the media was “under-funded” in 2016-17.
“This was due to the Government’s decision to reduce funding for national news services in 2017, as well as to cuts in the number of local news channels.
However, the report also highlights the Government has been able to fund a number of independent media outlets, including the BBC.
Media organisations that are independent and which are not subject to the licence conditions of the BBC must pay the licence fee to the BBC if they wish to be able to operate.
The Government’s policy of not funding media organisations on a national level is not a cost effective way to support media freedom.”
The NAO found that in 2016 the UK “took an approach that was not only to provide support for independent organisations, but also to ensure that they were able to compete with the major international broadcasters.”
The report stated that “the current financial circumstances of independent news and information media are not sustainable, given the significant pressures that the media are facing in many parts of the world”.
According a UK Government spokesperson, the decision not to fund independent media came “after careful consideration of the best interests of the UK, and the impact on the national economy.”
The spokesperson added, “This is the first of many decisions we are making to improve the way the UK delivers news and provides an alternative to the global news media, such as online news.
We are also determined to ensure the public has a voice in the political process and we are determined to make sure that we are providing a safe and secure environment for people to exercise their democratic right to access the news and opinions that matter to them.”
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