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Government unveils £2m fund to aid local public interest journalism

Jeremy WrightThe government has announced a £2m fund to help the regional press explore “innovative ways” to provide local public interest journalism.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has unveiled the new scheme, called the Future News Fund, following recommendations in the Cairncross Review into the future of news provision in the UK.

DCMS says the scheme will be used to fund a number of different initiatives, allowing publishers to test or expand new ways of providing sustainable public interest news, with the hope that new business models and greater use of data can be adopted across the industry as a result.

The government has also touted the idea of cash being used to fund a Future News Prize, to encourage wider thinking about how to address the challenges in the sector.

The Society of Editors has welcomed the announcement, but has warned against making the fund’s eligibility criteria too narrow and questioned who will identify what is journalism of public interest.

DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright, pictured, said: “A strong and independent press is vital for a healthy democracy to thrive and the Government is committed to securing its sustainability.

“While we are still developing our full response to the Cairncross Review, our plans to open a pilot fund now will help papers explore innovative ways of providing the public service journalism that citizens need and deserve.”

Responding to the announcement, Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray said: “Once a principle is set that some forms of journalism are considered to be in the public interest, then the opposite – journalism not considered to be important – is also created.

“For instance, where few would argue that coverage of local government and courts is essential public interest journalism, there is an argument to be made that grass roots sports are also an important part of life that bonds communities together. Will voices supporting a broad range of coverage be heard?

“Dame Frances also singled out investigative journalism as worthy of support, but how will this sit with state-funding? How will the independence of investigative journalists and their publishers from the influence from the fund-providers be ensured?

“These are decisions that should not be taken by a narrow group behind closed doors, but in open debate with the industry.”

Dame Frances Cairncross, who conducted the review, has welcomed the pilot.

In her report, she had backed and expansion of the BBC local democracy reporter scheme and called for the foundation of an ‘institute for public interest news’.

Dame Frances said: “I am delighted that the innovation fund suggested in my review is being piloted. Innovation is important if news organisations, and especially small and local providers of news, are to survive and to provide accessible public-interest news for the widest possible audience.”

The project will be administered by innovation foundation Nesta, and will run from this autumn until the end of the financial year.



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  • July 22, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Is it just me or does anything to do with government-funded journalism just have a bad ring about it?

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  • July 23, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Will this fund be used to prop up the failing hedge-fund manager owned publishers, who are themselves to blame for the demise of local news, or will it support those modern, forward thinking and passionate publishers who are working tooth and nail to save local journalism.

    Place your bets.

    I’m afraid I can’t give you very good odds we all know the answer.

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  • July 23, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Agree with you Local Editor and £2m is not much if spread thinly across UK. Bit of a gesture. Would be good if it is used specifically to target news black holes and poorly covered rural areas, and keep it out of the hands of Reach and co

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  • July 23, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Where it ought to go?
    new independent local media publishers
    Where it will go;
    The big regional groups who’ve underinvested, mismanaged and as a result dumbed down the industry while chasing unrealistic profits during a downturn in the economy and whilst new competitors were emerging.

    Either the government minister is naive and doesn’t understand the background as to why the industry is in the dire state it’s in, or he’s easily fooled by the sob stories coming out of the boardrooms of the bigger regional publishers.

    Its all a bit of a predictable joke isn’t it

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