The Government is to invest £2 million in a pilot innovation fund to support public interest journalism in the UK.
In the review of journalism earlier this year, Dame Frances Cairncross recommended government funding for innovative approaches to improve the supply of public interest news.
Now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed Nesta will administer the pilot Future News Fund, which will have a particular focus on helping providers of local and regional news. It will be used to fund a number of different initiatives, allowing publishers to test or expand new ways of providing sustainable public interest news.
The Government also said today the pilot would determine whether a fully-fledged public interest news fund should be created. Details of the criteria for funding have yet to be announced, but the Government’s press release cites Dame Cairncross’s examples of public interest news, including investigative journalism and reporting on the activities of public institutions.
The Government said it hopes publishers will benefit from the fund’s testing of new business models and greater use of data, which can be adopted across the industry. The pilot could also be used to fund a Future News Prize, to encourage wider thinking about how to address the challenges in the sector.
DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Wright (pictured) 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.”
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.
Valerie Mocker, director of the Future News Fund Pilot, Nesta said: “Reliable, accurate and high quality news at 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.”
The project 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.
The Government will publish it’s full response to the Cairncross Review later this year.