MPs have called for more support for local journalism to “revive” and ensure a “sustainable future” for the industry.
In a report by the DCMS Select Committee into the ‘Sustainability of Local Journalism’, published this week, MPs said that more help was needed to halt the “decline in local journalism”.
Damian Green MP, acting chair of the DCMS committee, said: “With the shift towards online readership swallowing up traditional print revenues, many local newspapers which have served their communities for years have struggled to keep their heads above water.
“While hundreds have already folded, those that remain are faced with a lack of resources to conduct quality journalism, forcing them into a downward spiral of decline, as readership and therefore revenues continue to fall further.
“While there are many success stories of innovation, the very nature of having smaller audiences and limited reach means local publishers find it hard to float in a market that rewards scale.
“The sector can have a sustainable future, but without more support and a rebalancing of the rules to help smaller publishers, the decline in local journalism and all the negative impacts associated with it will continue.”
Among the recommendations called for by the committee are an expansion of the local democracy reporting service, the introduction of a “long-term public interest news fund” with a remit to support innovation and “fairer distribution” of existing support offered.
The committee also stressed that while it recognised that the latest license fee settlement was difficult for the BBC, it did not consider “that the strategy for digital first should come at the expense of local radio”. The committee also called for the government to make it easier for local news organisations to achieve charitable status and assess ways to encourage more philanthropic donations to local news publishers for whom charitable status would not be appropriate.
The committee also welcomed the government’s expediting of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill which it said would “be vital to redressing the unbalanced relationship between the large digital platforms and local news publishers” but also called on the government to include “clear and explicit provisions for ensuring smaller publishers are fairly remunerated” by inclusion in the new pro-competition regime.
The report can be read in full here.