Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright this week announced a new £2 million fund to be directed into the hands of news publishers to help sustain public interest journalism.
The Future News Fund, which will launch in Autumn 2019 and run until the end of the financial year, is being piloted in response to one of the recommendations made by Dame Frances Cairncross in her review published in February this year.
The review looked at the future of the press in a rapidly changing digital media environment and made several recommendations including a new fund to focus on innovations aimed at improving the supply of public interest news.
The Government is due to publish its full response to the Cairncross Review later this year, but has established this to determine whether a full and expanded fund will be run in the future.
Launching the fund, Jeremy Wright said: “While we are still developing our full response to the Cairncross Review, our plans to open a pilot fund now will help papers explore innovative ways of providing the public service journalism that citizens need and deserve.”
The £2 million will provide local and regional news and magazine publishers with the means to test out and expand new ways of providing sustainable public interest news by utilising the ever-growing possibilities of the digital revolution. This could include the use of AI or a greater use of data to create new platforms to supply public interest news to as wider audience as possible.
In the review, this public interest category includes investigative journalism and the reporting on activities of public institutions.
Responding to the announcement, Dame Frances Cairncross said: “Innovation is important if news organisations, and especially small and local providers of news, are to survive and to provide accessible public-interest news for the widest possible audience.”
PPA Managing Director, Owen Meredith, commented:
“This is a welcome step in responding to the Cairncross Review. Although the main benefactor of this funding will be local and regional newspapers, there are opportunities for local magazine media brands to tap into funding where they are serving their community with public interest news alongside other content.
“A strong and vibrant press industry is vital for a democracy to thrive, and this fund could support creative ways for local magazine brand to start or continue robust reporting on local democracy and matters of public interest.
“The CMA has also acted in recent weeks, commencing a market study of online platforms and digital advertising market, in response to the Cairncross and Furman Reviews. We look forward to the Government’s full response later this year, not least the urgent need for action from the new Chancellor to extend the VAT zero-rate afforded to print magazines, newspapers and books to cover digital publications.”