Future of local news is bleak … and bright, say new models experts

While it was never likely that the state would jump in and save journalism, the new government’s first statement on media policy put paid to any illusions that there will be public subsidy to revive local news.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed on June 8th that the coalition government is to scrap proposals to replace ITV’s regional news provision with a network of independently funded news consortia.

The announcement prompted very different views of the future of local news at the University of Westminster’s Next Top Model conference on June 8th and 9th.

Claire Enders, founder and chief executive of Enders Analysis, argued that the survival of local news is dependent on a new business model which has yet to emerge. ‘Many organisations decided long ago not to invest in websites because there is no business model,’ she said. With many local economies dependent on state subsidy and advertising revenues set to shrink further, the future is bleak, she added: ‘The picture isn’t going to get better. It is going to get worse.’

But William Perrin, who runs the pioneering local website project Talkaboutlocal, said that the previous government’s IFNC scheme had generated innovative proposals which were unnecessarily dependent on public subsidy. An alternative, viable model for regional news would be low-cost and internet-based, he argued: ‘It will require some public investment but not much – a few hundred thousand to get something running. It’s not millions.’

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