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Up to 75pc of independent titles at risk of closure, study says

PINFThree-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.

The report comes after the ICNN warned earlier this week warned many hyperlocals wouldn go “out of business in weeks” without action from government.

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.”


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  • March 26, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    This is the sector that desperately needs support, funding and saving, the main groups have shown they are incapable or unprepared to provide hyper local news any longer and have badly handled their own operations for years.
    The new independent groups are providing a genuine community news service to communities and are the future of local news provision.

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  • March 27, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Many communities across the uk rely on the new breed of in-community hyper local news publications which have opened up in the wake of traditional publishers pulling out of county locations and who choose to operate from offices and desks twenty or more miles off patch.
    Here in the east there are some superb independent publications providing a traditional news service to local people, supported by growing readerships and being used by businesses to advertise with Without them towns villages and communities would be forgotten by the main publisher who’s only interest is taking advertising money from local businesses or searching the public’s facebook posts for story leads.
    If these hyper locals folded the main groups would be delighted as they’ve become a thorn in their sides ,or as someone high up at one of the groups called them ,an ‘ unnecessary menace” which shows how much of a threat they pose and what a strong competitors they have become.
    Please stop pandering to these big businesses and their constant cries for funds and instead help and support those who are showing commitment to providing genuine local news service day in day out and need every penny they can get to do so

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  • March 27, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    It’s a big problem for free locals, especially those that rely on adverts ads from businesses that are now closed (cafes, pubs, clothes shops, furniture shops, etc) or events that aren’t now happening. With no cover revenue and greatly reduced advertising it’s an impossible double whammy – doubly unfortunate if your hyperlocal went well last year so you made £50,001!

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