Newsquest’s chief executive has called on the government to lend further support to the regional press industry over the next three to five years.
Speaking at a Westminster Media Forum conference on the future of news, Henry said he did not believe in the need for “long term support” for the industry.
But he pointed to work governments overseas are doing to support local journalism such as Canada’s £70 million per annum fund to support local journalism and Denmark’s six-year fund which provided £44 million for local journalism last year.
Earlier this month DCMS began welcoming applications for the £2m Future News Fund, which will offer grants of up to £100,000 to aid projects aimed at helping the regional press explore “innovative ways” to provide local public interest journalism.
Henry, who is News Media Association vice chairman, told the conference: “It’s great that the Government has recognised something needs to be done, but they commissioned the Cairncross report over 18 months ago, and frankly local journalism needs proper help now.
“I don’t believe in the need for long term support nor am I suggesting they support publishing companies. I am saying they should support local journalism and local public interest reporters for the next three to five years, and that they must work with the industry (not against it) in delivering this.
“Local journalism is a huge public good, and DCMS and Government need to get out of the slow lane and be bold – otherwise our local communities, the fabric of our society, will deteriorate just at a time when we as a nation need them most.
He added: “In the UK a one-off grant of £2m into a Future News Fund – for a country that is the founding father of the free press – dare I say it – looks a little light by comparison.
“It certainly looks light compared to the £1 billion tax credits that go to other creative industries – why does a local museum get support but not local journalism?
“Of course, we should be supporting new innovations; but in the medium term these will not come close to replacing the editorially independent and vast amount of impactful journalism still produced by publishers across the UK.
“It’s important that any new initiatives work with and leverage the existing publishing infrastructure; the audiences, the expertise, the training, the legal support, the apprenticeship schemes that already exist and are embedded in news rooms across the country.”