We been working with five great but very different community news projects for Carnegie UK Trust – in Brixton London, Alston in Cumbria, Harlow in Essex, Port Talbot in Wales and Wester Hailes in Edinburgh. Carnegie is exploring how to bolster accountability and democracy in communities, in which news and information plays a vital part. Talk About Local is helping Carnegie evaluate and support the Neighbourhood News projects – there is an interim report from Talk About Local and from Carnegie. Each project receives relatively small sums – two payments of £5,000 – for creating new or expanding existing local news and information output. The emphasis is very much on community news, information and accountability, rather than technology or business process innovation. Even at this interim stage Carnegie have isolated some pertinent questions for UK local media policy:
1. Why do we see so little support for local news projects by grant making foundations, charities and grant makers, who are interested in the wellbeing of communities and individuals? What role could such organisations play?
2. Would the approach adopted in Neighbourhood News – of spreading risk by supporting a small number of well-organised community media projects with small pots of funding and using an independent expert advisory group to help select winners – be attractive to other funders?
3. Could government interventions in the local news market, such as the Community Radio Fund, be adapted or expanded to provide opportunities for local news providers who operate on other platforms, including web-based providers?
4. In the debate on regulating media plurality, which is largely about managing market exit of independent outlets, is there a role for encouraging market entry by many small web-based providers?
5. What scope is there for amending the regulations relating to the advertising of statutory notices to ensure that the outlets awarded such contracts meet clear requirements in relation to population reach and provision of at least some ‘public interest’ content, irrespective of the platform used?
6. What is the best strategy for supporting start-up local news projects? Can traditional community development structures play a role or is a new infrastructure required? How can local news projects be supported to learn from each other?
It would be great to hear from UK hyperlocal practitioners and anyone else in the comments. Just a quick blog for now, but I shall be talking more about this at the Media Power and Plurality event at City on Friday 2 May.
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