Three-quarters of independent news providers are at risk of closure due to coronavirus, according to a new study.
Research conducted by the Public Interest News Foundation, an independent body backed by press watchdog Impress, this week has revealed 75pc of such titles fear COVID-19 may result in them being closed either temporarily or permanently.
The study, conducted in partnership with the Independent Community News Network, Bureau Local and Impress, has also revealed 94pc of respondents believe the pandemic will have a “negative” or “very negative” impact on their organisation.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed also did not believe the government recognises the role of journalism in responding to the crisis or is doing enough to help the sector right now, while 80pc said they do not have insurance that covers the challenges they now face.
Those asked included hyperlocals, local news organisations, investigative reporting organisations, specialist news organisations and others.
Particular concerns highlighted in the survey include the loss of online advertising,· the suspension of print distribution, the loss of income from donations and subscriptions and the suspension of complementary business activities.
One anonymous publisher told the survey: “It’s utterly devastating. We are watching the 14 years of hard work and dedication we’ve put into building this publication and bringing change to news reporting in our area fall apart in front of our eyes in a matter of weeks.”
Of those surveyed, 42pc believed they do qualify as key workers, while 29pc said they did not and another 29pc said they did not know.
The survey also shows that more than 60pc of organisations studied are providing direct support to vulnerable citizens with initiatives such as organising online events, coordinating volunteering drives and providing information about home deliveries.
ICNN director Emma Meese said: “This is tragic news for independent journalism in the UK, and this survey shows how desperate the situation is for independent news providers. Among our membership we expect the statistics to be even more stark.
“Alongside our campaign: #savelocaljournalism, many efforts are being made to mitigate the damage caused by the Coronavirus.
“At this time of incredible uncertainty for journalism, it’s important we work together.
“We will keep the pressure on government to deliver an equal package of support across the journalism sector.”
In a statement, the PINF added: “The Public Interest News Foundation is now working with independent publishers and other stakeholders to develop plans for a comprehensive support package for the sector.”