Cairncross review warns that closure of local newspapers threatens democracy

The Cairncross review has been published by the government, making recomendations about the need to support local news reporting in an age when the large global tech companies are sucking-in most of the advertising spending power needed to maintain local independent news services.

The report also identifies how the BBC impacts on news reporting by potentially crowding-out alternative providers, and how the Local Demoncracy Reporting Scheme supports the supply of reports for independent news .

The report is available from:

I’m going to try and give this a detailed read over the next couple of days, as we need to encourage debate and discussion about the potential role for community media in the provision of news services.

What shoud we say at the Media Democracy Festival in March that helps to build an aliance of reformers for better media?

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It might be useful to gather evidence of community reporting schemes that are active around the country. For example, the Manchester Community Reporting scheme, which outlines how:

Community Reporting is about people having a voice and telling their stories. The Community Reporters website gives a platform to tell the story to a large audience and be part of a Europe wide network of over 1,700 (and growing) Community Reporters. Macc provides training, information, support and equipment to Community Reporters in Manchester.

https://www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/support-groups/manchester-community-reporters

Manchester-Community-Reporters-001

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Here’s a responce received by email:

Dear Rob,
Many thanks for this. For what it’s worth I think the BBC should come under a little more pressure to ensure that the work of its local, paid-for ‘democracy reporters’ work more closely with Community Media. And, as I understand it, and as the former are trained professionals, perhaps they could also offer some development/training assistance to CMA volunteers for news production. This does not mean telling them to follow the BBC’s national lead in defining what the news is. It’s an uncomfortable relationship but perhaps could be made to work more effectively for the community sector. And it would be good for BBC-paid local journalists also to learn about news values from community media provider

I realise this is a bit contentious for CMS people who believe that the licence fee should have been used to fund CMA news provision more directly. My view is that BBC licence fee money should stay inside the BBC especially as since 2010 at least the Government has been pushing hard to get the Corporation to spend licence fee payers money on other services than universally broadcast programmes (eg on the £750m cost of paying licence fees for the over 75s). In a different national environment and with a government that clearly supports the BBC - and ensures adequate funding via the licence fee, I support the idea of a new settlement that offers meaningful public support (financial) to community radio.

Community TV is more difficult - see the recent Ofcom report on this. In any case good luck with your search for views. And I haven’t yet digested the Caircross report!

With best wishes, Sylvia

Sylvia Harvey, FRSA,
Visiting Professor, School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds

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And my reply:

Hi Sylvia

Yes, this is true. I attended a feedback meeting of the Local News Partnership, and asked how many community radio stations are members of the LNP? It was one of those moments when people look at their shoes. Very few was the answer.

I then asked what support is given to help community radio stations to gear-up to access the scheme and the response was telling.

Community radio stations generally don’t meet the ‘quality threshold’ for providing regular bulletins, so they are excluded from the scheme on the grounds that they don’t match the requirement of the scheme.

I though this was ironic, given that you could set up a ‘hyper-local’ news organisation on your kitchen table and be able to register to access the LNP, use its resources, and start the process of being a provider.

At a meeting with the DCMS I mentioned this to the civil servant we meet, and he was surprised that community radio stations can’t get access to the scheme for editorial content?

There is a significant pattern of behaviour in excluding community radio and community media from the policy-making process across a range of activities, and I’m trying to understand why this is and how it can be addressed.

There are now more than 270 community radio stations in the UK, but no strategy from Ofcom or DCMS to support a coherent development of principles and policies that would enable them to play a more strategic role in civic communications.

Lots to think about – I’ll post this reply to the thread on the CMA Forum – please feel free to sign-in and join the debate, or email is good as well.

Best wishes

Rob

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