Friday, February 23, 2024
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Local news is essential and its funding should be guided by communities

In a report published today, the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) and NewsNow, the UK’s independent news discovery platform, say that communities are demanding local news outlets be supported and saved from extinction and call on funders and policymakers for support.

In place of the current ‘top-down’ model, they call for a ‘bottom-up’ approach, where funding for local news is guided by local communities rather than distant shareholders or politicians.

Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of PINF, said: ‘Most local newspapers in the UK are owned by three large corporations, which have received millions of pounds in handouts from the government, big tech and the BBC. Local communities aren’t happy with the quality of local news that they’re getting in return. If we want to build a sustainable future for local news, we need to give local people a voice.’

Over the last six months, PINF have worked with a wide range of stakeholders in Bangor, Bristol, Folkestone, Glasgow, Manchester and Newry. In each location, they have facilitated a draft ‘Local News Plan’ that sets out people’s views of local news at present, and their vision for the local news of the future.

The report recommends:

Local news

1) Local advertisers and government should allocate a proportion of their budget for outlets that align with the Local News Plans;

2) Funding for local news should be managed by independent local foundations;

3) More communities should develop Local News Plans to ensure local news represents their needs.

This approach is described by PINF and NewsNow as ‘media wealth building’, because it aims to maximise the value of local news to local communities.

PINF conceived the Local News Plans project in partnership with NewsNow, who also funded the project. The project was led by Sameer Padania, the international media consultant, and Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of PINF, working with local stewards in each of the six locations.

Sameer Padania said: ‘We’ve seen the challenges facing local communities across the UK, but we’ve also seen how those same communities want local news to be part of the solution. High-quality local news reflects people’s pride in their area, supports their high streets and businesses, spotlights community initiatives and builds a sense of belonging. Local news isn’t just an add-on – it’s an essential part of every local community.’

Jana Bartlett, of NewsNow, said: ‘We’re delighted to have worked with PINF on bringing together communities to discuss how they can work out for themselves what they want from local news and how best to support local providers. At NewsNow, we believe that sustainably funded public interest journalism is vital for the health of local democracy.’

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