Investigative and local journalism have faced the sharp end of resource cuts across the sector for some time. While there is no lack of demand for news in the UK, there is an increasing unwillingness to fund more expensive or less commercially attractive forms of news in a highly unstable climate.
News provision has always relied on funding through subsidy. The press currently receives a subsidy of over £500 million a year as a result of VAT exemption. It is how these subsidies are put to use that is important for the protection of news as a vital democratic resource. Existing and new subsidies should stimulate journalism in the public interest rather than simply keeping an old and tired business model afloat. Funding can help facilitate a range of new organisational structures, news projects and sources of revenue.
- Investigate ways in which to make sure that news aggregators pay their way in the distribution of original news content.
- Consider a range of levies on communications companies to help sustain new and existing public-service oriented news projects.
- Amend charity law so that local newspapers may be operated as charitable organisations.
- Introduce tax incentives for community groups and co-operative bodies to fund takeovers and investment and to facilitate transfers.
- Increase the Community Radio Fund to a level that has significant impact as a lever for other investment and as a driver of quality hyperlocal news and informational content.
- Consider matched funding of local authority spending on communications and advertising to support local news hubs.
- Extend VAT exemptions to cover digital advertising and sales but only on condition that the recipients make a specific commitment to support any new regulatory body and public interest news ventures.
- Insist that public support is provided only to institutions who can prove that they are accountable to the public that helps sustain them.