After the former journalist Dame Frances Cairncross suggested an innovation fund to support public interest journalism in the UK, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) secretary of state Jeremy Wright has announced a pilot £2m ‘Future News Fund.’
Back in March 2018, former journalist Dame Frances Cairncross was asked by the government to undertake a review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism in the UK. The report examined and made recommendations on the overall state of the UK news market, threats to financial sustainability and the role of digital advertising.
In the review, Cairncross recommended government funding for innovative approaches to improve the supply of public interest news.
She described the different types of news which could be categorised as ‘public interest’ in her review – including investigative journalism and reporting on the activities of public institutions.
The government has since taken action on Cairncross’ recommendations with the ‘Future News Fund.’ It will be split between a number of different initiatives that allow publishers to test or expand new ways of providing sustainable public interest news.
Wright said that the government was committed to securing its sustainability, acknowledging that a strong and independent press is vital for a healthy democracy to thrive.
While the government is still developing its full response to the Cairncross Review, Wright said: “its plans to open a pilot fund will help papers explore innovative ways of providing the public service journalism that citizens need and deserve.”
In response to the news that the innovation fund she suggested in the review is being piloted, Cairncross said “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.”
Nesta will administer the pilot Future News Fund, which will have a particular focus on helping providers of local and regional news.
Valerie Mocker, director of the Future News Fund Pilot at Nesta said that reliable, accurate and high-quality news at local level has been under threat for some time now, which has eroded an essential mechanism for citizens to engage in their communities, exercise their democratic rights and hold institutions to account.
She said: “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 pilot fund will launch in August 2019 and run until the end of the financial year.