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Hyperlocals welcome £60,000 ‘lifeline’ for independent news titles

CairncrossEmergency funding worth £60,000 is being made available to help independent news publishers through the coronavirus crisis.

The Public Interest News Foundation, an independent body backed by press watchdog Impress, is launching a scheme to help titles across the UK – with 20 grants worth £3,000 each set to be awarded.

The move comes after research conducted by PINF revealed in March found 75pc of such titles feared COVID-19 may result in them being closed either temporarily or permanently.

Financial backing for the initiative will come from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

A selection panel of experts from across the industry, chaired by Cairncross Review author Dame Frances Cairncross, will decide upon the recipients.

Dame Frances, pictured, said: “The threat to the survival of small independent news publishers is one of the most worrying consequences of the pandemic.

“For many communities, independent publishers are the best or the only source of public-interest news.

“The Public Interest News Fund hopes not just to raise funds to help to support them but to promote ways to strengthen them and to help them survive.”

The intiative’s launch has been welcomed by hyperlocal publishers’ trade body the Independent Community News Network.

Emma Meese, director of ICNN, said: “Our survey of independent publishers showed that 95pc had not received any money at all from the UK government. This fund will be a lifeline for many independent publishers, who have otherwise slipped through the net.

“It has been heartbreaking to hear from brilliant, dedicated and trustworthy independent journalists who are desperate to keep serving their communities, but fear for the future of their titles.

“Investing in this sector is essential to ensure a continued plurality of voice in the UK, and avoid hundreds more news black holes which would leave an even bigger democratic deficit than we already have.”

Applications to the fund will open on Tuesday 26 May and close on 2 June. Enquiries from applicants should be directed to contact@publicinterestnews.org.uk.

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