The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee put out a call for evidence looking at a sustainable future for local journalism. This is a summary of the MRC submission, which you can read in full here.
The Media Reform Coalition has been researching the crisis in local news, and campaigning for solutions, for many years. Two decades of consolidations and cost-cutting measures by the largest commercial local news providers has led to the loss of many titles and hundreds of journalist jobs, severely undermining the volume and quality of local journalism. While many new independent local news outlets have sprung up, these are often run on tiny budgets and struggle to sustain themselves.
This cost-cutting by regional news conglomerates has been a response to two main factors: a) changing technologies and the migration of classified advertising online and b) choices by these companies to protect profits and executive salaries rather than invest in local journalism. Creating a sustainable local journalism ecology requires us to address both of these causes.
Firstly, since changes to the advertising market fundamentally alter the business model, there is a need for a new funding stream to address the crisis in local news; the logical way to fund this is through a levy on the tech giants. Secondly, the allocation of these funds need to be reoriented towards supporting local public interest journalism, rather than propping up the very institutions who have contributed to the crisis. Any new forms of funding or subsidy must therefore be distributed via an independent body using transparent and democratic criteria and procedures, prioritising those local news organisations which act in the public interest, are independent of powerful interests and accountable to the communities they serve.
Read the full submission here: MRC Sustainability of local journalism March 2022