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IMPRESS and the Public Interest News Foundation welcome the Government’s response to the Cairncross Review but urge ‘deeper, faster’ support for independent publishers

28 January 2020

IMPRESS and the Public Interest News Foundation have welcomed the Government’s positive response to the Cairncross Review. However, the two organisations have urged the Government to speed up its efforts to support independent news publishers and their audiences.

Jonathan Heawood, CEO of IMPRESS, said: ‘The Government is making all the right noises, but we need deeper and faster support for independent publishers. Without serious investment, now, the independent sector will struggle to survive. But with the right support, the Government can help ensure a new era for high-quality public interest journalism in the UK.’

The Government rejected Dame Frances Cairncross’s proposed Institute for Public Interest News, saying that ‘it is not for the Government to define what qualifies as “public interest” news.’ Instead, the Government welcomed initiatives set up by the industry in this area, including the Public Interest News Foundation, which was developed by IMPRESS and a group of independent publishers.

The founding Trustees of the Public Interest News Foundation are Jo Adetunji, Deputy Editor of The Conversation UK and a member of the Cairncross Review Advisory Group; Lord Inglewood, former Chair of the Cumbrian News Group; and Patrick Swaffer, President of the BBFC.

At present, IMPRESS is incubating the Public Interest News Foundation, and Patrick Swaffer is acting as a board member of both IMPRESS and the Foundation. In due course, Patrick Swaffer will step down as a board member of IMPRESS and the Foundation will operate independently. The two organisations are constitutionally separate.

Jo Adetunji, Trustee of the Public Interest News Foundation, said: ‘While the Government has said it will not take forward the recommendation of the Cairncross Review to establish an Institute for Public Interest News, it is clear there is scope for the sector to continue to pursue this collaborative agenda. The Public Interest News Foundation was set up to strengthen the capacity of independent news publishers, so they can better engage communities, exchange ideas and build both infrastructure and sustainability, with a shared approach to high ethical standards. Journalism continues to face immense funding challenges in the digital era, and the foundation will seek to develop opportunities for publishers, and research that will benefit the public and contribute to the future sustainability of the sector.’

Independent publishers championing the Public Interest News Foundation include Vanessa Baird of New Internationalist, and Paul Hutchinson of Bedford Independent.

Vanessa Baird, Co-Editor of the New Internationalist, said: ‘I believe the future of independent news must be a rich and vibrant ecology where there is support for media plurality and diversity, to improve standards and tackle the democratic deficit.’

Paul Hutchinson, Managing Editor of the Bedford Independent, said: ‘We need independent news to have this recognition and support, because supporting the failing larger publishers is throwing good money after bad. If this continues, then the recommendations of the Cairncross Review will fail, independent media will not survive, and we’ll be back at square one.’

The Public Interest News Foundation will support journalism in the UK that follows high ethical standards and drives citizenship, community development and other charitable outcomes through programmes and grants. It hopes to raise funds from a wide range of sources.

About the Independent Publishers Taskforce

The Independent Publishers Taskforce was convened by IMPRESS in April 2019. Members of the Taskforce included independent news publishers from across the UK. The Taskforce met from April-September 2019. The taskforce also benefited from the advice and input of a group of external stakeholders. The proposals of the Taskforce were published as ‘Supporting Public Interest News: A Blueprint’. This six-month project was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

About IMPRESS

IMPRESS regulates over 130 publications from across the UK. It provides publishers and journalists with the protection and support they need to do their job. They offer complaints adjudication, free arbitration, a comprehensive insurance scheme and a progressive Standards Code, as well as an open code review process in which all members of the public can take part. IMPRESS works in partnership with the public, publishers and key stakeholders to raise the standards of journalism.

More information

For more information about the Public Interest News Foundation, please visit https://www.publicinterestnews.org.uk/ or contact Clara Aguirre on clara@publicinterestnews.org.uk.