25 September 2023

News services call for public funds

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Local journalism in the UK may need an injection of public funds to remain viable if the current private sector model continues to collapse, an academic and former national newspaper editor believes.

Roy Greenslade (pictured) predicts there will be no hardcopy local newspapers left within 30 years and if totally online versions are to survive they will need a new funding model.

“We are never going to raise enough money through advertising alone; we have tried subscriptions, paywalls and so far that hasn’t worked at a local level,” Mr Greenslade said.

He said a possible solution could be funding via a public service subsidy, similar to the television licence fee that pays for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Mr Greenslade noted that the BBC was currently funding 150 local democracy reporters to plug the so-called democratic deficit left by newsroom cuts and title closures across the UK regional press.

“I want to see public service journalism stay and to make it stay I feel we are going to need a subsidy,” he said.

He said it could be arm’s-length from the Government.

“The Government doesn’t need to interfere, we set a licence fee and that can be spread out across publishers across Britain,” Mr Greenslade said.

“A lot of people would say that you’re still seeing it in corporate terms — you’re handing out money to corporate people to make money — but I’m looking to a future where there won’t be that much money to be made.”

He said daily papers were becoming weekly papers, weekly papers were becoming much more reliant on very small staff numbers and were mainly concentrating online.

“With the coming of the internet we faced a structural threat to the existence of newspapers; I think it took a long time for publishers and journalists and everyone connected to the industry to realise the enormity of threat to news print,” Mr Greenslade said.

“A long time … to realise they needed to invest in new technologies before they could start to gather an audience on the net.”

London, 23 March 2018

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