NMA Welcomes DCMS Inquiry Into Sustainability of Local Journalism

The News Media Association has welcomed the launch of a new inquiry into the sustainability of local journalism from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The Committee announced earlier this week that the inquiry will examine the challenges that local news publishers face and how they can be supported to maintain their democratic function.

News Media Association chief executive, Owen Meredith, said: “We welcome the Committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of local journalism, which underscores the importance of the critical role local media plays in our society and democracy.

“Local journalism performs a vital democratic role, covering local issues, investigating local public bodies and holding the powerful to account. Local news media continues to serve growing audiences in print and online and remains one of the most trusted sources of information.

“The pandemic has only seen the demand for trusted quality journalism increase, while the industry has continued to innovate, with recent developments such as the Public Notices Portal.

“While the Committee inquiry is welcome, what is really needed is urgent action. After years of consultations, inquiries and reports the time to act is very much now.

“The NMA has repeatedly urged Government to introduce targeted tax relief schemes for local news publishers, to rein in unfair competition from the BBC, and to level the playing field between news publishers and tech platforms.

“Such critical measures would allow publishers to bridge the gap to develop digital innovation and sustainable business models, allowing them to continue their vital work for their local communities.”

MPs will also look into the findings reached by the 2019 Cairncross Review, which examined how best to support the news media industry.

The inquiry will also cover the operation of the market for the industry, as well as how it is affected by increasing competition from tech platforms and public service broadcasters.

Julian Knight, DCMS committee chair, said: “It is clear that the market for local news journalism has shifted considerably over the past two decades. The need to know what is going on in your area is as great as it ever has been, arguably greater, but there is a very real challenge in how to deliver that.

“Local news organisations increasingly face competition from social media despite moving their own titles online.

“How can we maintain and protect the type of journalism that reports what your council is doing, coverage that is essential to local democracy?

“We’re asking what more needs to be done to make local news journalism sustainable and what form that support should take.”

The inquiry also seeks to explore how the Government can support local news in developing sustainable business models, how public service broadcasters like the BBC are supporting or disrupting local journalism, whether partisan and hyper-partisan news outlets are disrupting local news production and the role social media plays in local journalism.

The DCMS Committee is inviting written evidence by Thursday 31 March 2022. The NMA will be responding to the inquiry.