U.K. Scraps Phase 2 of Leveson Inquiry Into Media Industry, Citing "Seismic Changes"

UK Houses of Parliament - H 2015
AP Images

UK Houses of Parliament - H 2015

"Issues like clickbait, fake news, malicious disinformation and online abuse" now "threaten high-quality journalism," says culture secretary Matt Hancock.

U.K. culture secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday said the British government would not go ahead with phase 2 of an investigation into wrongdoings in the newspaper industry despite a recent vote in favor of the probe from the House of Lords.

Media companies have been urging against the second phase.

Hancock told the House of Commons in London on Thursday that there had been "seismic changes" in the media landscape since the first part of the Leveson inquiry, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, concluded in 2012. 

"Action is needed not based on what might have been needed years ago but based on what is needed to address today's problems," Hancock said, citing "issues like clickbait, fake news, malicious disinformation and online abuse, which threaten high-quality journalism."

"Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favor," he said. "These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to the freedom of our nation. Today in a world of the internet and clickbait, our press face critical challenges that threaten their livelihood and sustainability — with declining circulations and a changing media landscape."

He concluded: "The world has changed since the Leveson inquiry was established in 2011. Since then we have seen seismic changes to the media landscape. The work of the Leveson inquiry, and the reforms since, have had a huge impact on public life. … At national and local levels, a press that can hold the powerful to account remains an essential component of our democracy. Britain needs high-quality journalism to thrive in the new digital world. We seek a press — a media — that is robust and independently regulated, that reports without fear or favor."