Contributing Editor and community reporter, Paris Ali-Pilling reports about the ongoing campaign to #SaveIndependentNews, created by the Independent Community News Network in partnership with the Public Interest News Foundation.
The Independent Community News Network (ICNN) is the representative body of the UK’s independent news sector and promotes community news and hyperlocal publishers in the UK.
ICNN aims: ‘to promote the interests of community and hyperlocal publishers in the UK, and to champion new and sustainable forms of local digital and print journalism. We are the voice of over 100 community news brands in the UK. Our objectives are to increase recognition of community publishers and the vital work they do; make representations on their behalf to policy makers, regulatory bodies, third sector funders, businesses and other organisations, and fight for better opportunities for all.’
Working in partnership with the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), ICNN created the #SaveIndependentNews campaign, after their own research revealed 95% of local independent news providers have received zero support from the UK Government since the start of lockdown.
By contrast, the ‘newspaper industry’ has been allocated £35 million in order to support the press and save lives by delivering essential information to the public, however the ‘money is not reaching the local independent news sector’.
The campaign is asking local residents to write to their MPs if they value their local independent paper or news website.
When you visit the campaign’s website and enter your postcode, you can enter your details to send the following letter to your MP:
Will you write to Secretary of State for Media Oliver Dowden MP, to ask him to create a bespoke funding agreement to support the local independent press in consultation with the ICNN and other independent press representatives?
The combined reach of the local independent news sector in the UK is vast, with several hundred professional publications reaching more than 15m online every month; and with a collective print run of over 426,000.
Their contribution to their communities and audiences is unparalleled. More than 60 per cent of them are going beyond traditional journalism in their response to the COVID-19 crisis.
But the impact of COVID-19 on local independent journalism has been devastating.
75 per cent of local independent newspapers are facing temporary or permanent closure, while 80 per cent do not have insurance that covers them for the challenges they now face.
Moreover, 95 per cent of local independent news providers have found that Government initiatives to date have done nothing to support the sector.
The corporate press, on the other hand, which is more profitable, more resilient and more influential, has benefited significantly from the UK Government’s emergency measures to support the ‘newspaper industry’.
This includes the £35m public health advertising campaign ‘All-in all together’ from which local independent news providers have been almost entirely excluded.
The advertising deal has a secondary purpose of providing the public with information about COVID-19. Yet for such a campaign to be effective, it would need to appear in trusted publications with a high readership.
The newspapers which have participated to date have included some of the least-trusted publications in the entire industry.
The local independent press consistently scores highly for public trust, making those newspapers the most appropriate location for education campaigns.
In addition, with print circulations at record low levels and readership of physical newspapers at just 18 per cent versus 79 per cent for online news, it is incomprehensible that the public health advertising campaign excludes digital-first publications.
Local independent news providers are more trusted, more ethical, and more reliable than the corporate press. They provide a vital service to communities across the country, and their collective reach exceeds that of many national titles.
As key workers, they have continued to work through the crisis. But they face financial hardship because the Government has preferred to channel funding to the corporate press.
A bespoke funding agreement to support local independent news providers in consultation with the ICNN and other independent press representatives would save the independent sector and allow local journalists across the UK to go on serving their communities.
Will you write to Secretary of State for Media Oliver Dowden MP, to ask him to agree a funding package with the local independent press?
If you want to find out more, visit the #SaveIndependentNews campaign.