The preferred bidders for the Independently Funded News Consortia will receive government money to provide a new type of local news in the UK. The government process is almost unique in the world – intelligent action and innovation rather than handwringing or thoughtless subsidy for more of the same.
The government said of the IFNC that:
‘…They will be able to deliver a broader local and regional news offering through multi-platform delivery. A contestable selection process will extend the base of content providers and increase the scope of innovation, quality and journalistic diversity.’
As a member of the selection panel comprising people from the full breadth of the media industry, I was delighted (and a bit surprised) to see traditional newspaper publishers, TV and radio companies making a big effort to understand hyperlocal publishing, the motivations of the people who do it and the contribution to the news process.
The winners are large media groups that demonstrate a good understanding of the potential for bottom up, grass roots hyperlocal news in the future news environment. Each of the awards will emerge differently but we should see a far greater inclusion of hyperlocal sites in the local news ecology and thus an enhanced local (as opposed to just regional) news service and greater plurality all around. The IFNC process should give hyperlocal publishers a seat at the table, in many cases for the first time. The public should see better telly, better papers (better radio in some cases) and better local internet.
The challenge for the IFNC bidders is to use the space the IFNC subsidy and cross media freedom gives them to understand, manage and harness the radical cross platform changes happening to local news – some outlined brilliantly by Alan Rusbridger in his Cudlipp lecture. Whatever government the nation has after the impending general election this learning of how change works in practice will be vital to the future health of our media.
These are my personal views reflecting on the process today – for the definitive statement please see the government’s statement on the DCMS website.
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