ICNN welcomes the announcement of the Future News Fund

By Matt Abbott | 22nd Jul 2019

The Independent Community News Network (ICNN) welcomes the announcement of a £2m pilot fund to support innovation in local public interest journalism.

The Future News Fund announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) follows recommendations from the Cairncross Review into the future of news provision in the UK and a series of consultations held thereafter. 

DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright, said: “A strong and independent press is vital for a healthy democracy to thrive and the Government is committed to securing its sustainability.

“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.”

ICNN is also pleased to learn that the fund will be administered by innovation foundation Nesta UK – an organisation which has a history of supporting the independent community news sector – and which has previously partnered with the C4CJ. 

According to the DCMS release, the fund will be used to support a number of different initiatives, allowing publishers to test or expand new ways of providing sustainable public interest news.

Director of Community Journalism at Cardiff University Emma Meese said: “This is a welcome development and we will be actively working to ensure that this fund is accessible to members of ICNN.

“ICNN has already been recognised by the Welsh Government as a mark of quality. Access to the Independent Community Journalism Fund requires that publications be members of ICNN.

“The Future News Fund must take care not to have too narrow a focus on who is eligible. Smaller organisations producing high quality independent public interest news must be considered alongside traditional publishers of news.”

On its website, Nesta wrote: “We want to support existing local news providers to find new ways to collaborate and test new models, as well as support new players and technological innovations that can amplify quality local news and solve the challenges to our democratic immune system.”

As yet, no further details have been announced on how the funding process will work, who is eligible or what constitutes public interest journalism. A full response will be published later in the year.

Dame Frances Cairncross said: “I am delighted that the innovation fund suggested in my review is being piloted. 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.”

It will launch in Autumn 2019 and run until the end of the financial year. Its outcomes will be used to shape decisions about whether to run a full, expanded fund in the future.

Valerie Mocker, director of the Future News Fund Pilot, Nesta said: “Reliable, accurate and high-quality news at a local level has been under threat for some time now, eroding an essential mechanism for citizens to engage in their communities, exercise their democratic rights and hold institutions to account.

“We are delighted that Nesta will be able to play a part in addressing this problem with The Future News Fund – backing promising technologies, models and ideas so communities across the UK have access to reliable and accurate news about the issues that matter most to them.”

According to The Times: Jeremy Wright is also said to be “sympathetic” to the proposal that digital news products — such as tablet editions of newspapers — should enjoy the same VAT exemption as printed papers.

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