Government funding hole having ‘devastating effect’ on independent news sector

Posted on: September 17, 2020 by Claire Meadows

The government’s decision not to extend support to the independent news sector during the Covid crisis is having a ‘devastating effect’ on local titles, it has been warned.

Speaking in the wake of reports that a local online news title The Gosport & Fareham Sunday Globe, had closed due to the pandemic, the Director of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) said that advertising spend must be extended to digital-only titles.

Emma Meese said that the reach and impact of titles such as the Gosport Globe should not be under-estimated.

She added: “It is heartbreaking to see a valued local title being forced to close due to a lack of funding. 

“This wouldn’t have happened if the Government’s ‘All in, All Together’ campaign had also been run with digital only titles. 

“The decision to only run the campaign in daily or weekly printed titles has had a devastating effect on the independent news sector and the communities they serve.”

Reported on HoldTheFrontPage (HTFP) this morning, The Gosport & Fareham Sunday Globe announced that after 6 years it had closed due to a failure to attract any paid-for advertising since the start of the pandemic.

Speaking to HTFP, Robin Young said that the decision to make this week’s edition the last in its current format was inevitable. Discussions were ongoing to see if the online publication could be launched in print at a later date.

He said: “Although ICNN had lobbied for government funding on our behalf, we were turned down.

“We had the biggest weekly readership of any publication covering the Hampshire boroughs of Gosport and Fareham, but no public health advertising was placed with us either.

“Costs are having to be met out of our own pockets and it is impractical to return to our office at Bury House, Gosport, because of social distancing and restrictions on access. Until the situation improves, there is no point in continuing.”

Responding to the publication’s imminent closure Meese said that, in some cases, independent news titles had a higher reach and engagement with local audiences than other publications covering the same area yet were still overlooked when it came to funding.

She added: “We have been in regular contact with DCMS, the Cabinet Office and the Government’s Media Buying agency OmniGov, but so far they have refused to include any titles which aren’t printed daily or weekly. 

“This is short-sighted given the reach and impact titles like the Gosport Globe have on communities across the UK. 

“Given we are entering a phase of various local lockdowns, these independent grassroots titles are more important than ever. We have contacted the Government and OmniGov requesting that all ongoing campaigns include digital only news titles, but we have yet to have a response.”