The Queen has issued a message of support to the British newspaper industry, praising traditional media outlets.
The monarch said that “having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital”.
In a letter to the News Media Association, the industry organisation that represents all major national and local newspaper publishers, the Queen said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated what an important public service the established news media provides, both nationally and regionally.
“The efforts of the news media to support communities throughout the United Kingdom during the pandemic have been invaluable – whether through fundraising, encouraging volunteering, or providing a lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable to the outside world.”
The statement was issued to coincide with the launch of the News Media Association’s Journalism Matters campaign, which is designed to shore up public and government support for established news outlets.
The Queen’s intervention was accompanied by an article from the organisation’s chairman, Henry Faure Walker, in which he railed against US tech companies taking advertising income that used to go to newspapers.
He said: “For too long, Google and Facebook have had a free pass at using our journalism on their platforms making huge profits, whilst contributing comparatively nothing back into the industry.”
Last week Google pledged to pay $1bn to licence content from news publishers around the world over the next three years, although this remains a fraction of the amount that the global newspaper industry has lost in advertising revenue over the last two decades.
Faure Walker, the chief executive of the financially struggling local newspaper group Newsquest, also called for further state intervention to prop up newspaper groups, on top of the £35m of government advertising money pledged earlier this year: “At the local level, many news brands are in a perilous position. We now urgently need government to intervene with a series of targeted initiatives to help sustain local independent journalism in this country.”
Many newspaper groups were already struggling financially before the pandemic and have been hit hard by the collapse of the advertising market, with major publishers – including the Guardian – announcing job losses. Others, such as JPI Media – the parent company of the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post – are up for sale but have struggled to find potential buyers.
The Queen’s statement of support focused on the campaigns and information provided to the public during the pandemic by members of the News Media Association.
However, not all members of the royal family have been as full of praise for the British newspaper industry. Her grandson Prince Harry is currently pursuing legal action against both Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and Reach, the parent company of the Daily Mirror, for alleged incidents of historic phone hacking. At the same time his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is also involved a £3m long-running legal battle with the owner of the Mail on Sunday over its decision to publish a letter she sent to her father. All three publishers are members of the News Media Association.