Newsquest chief wants 'proper help now' from government for local journalism

Simon Austin's picture
by Simon Austin

Henry Faure Walker, the chief executive of Newsquest, has urged the Government to “get out of the slow lane” and provide “proper help now” to local journalism.

In a speech at a Westminster Media Forum event on the future of news, Faure Walker said: “It’s great that the Government has recognised something needs to be done, but they commissioned the Cairncross report over 18 months ago, and frankly local journalism needs proper help now.”

Dame Frances Cairncross was tasked with looking at the sustainability of high-quality journalism in a rapidly changing marketplace for news and her report set out nine recommendations.

The Competition and Markets Authority opened an investigation into the dominance of Facebook and Google in the digital advertising market in response.

The Government had not published its full response to the review before Parliament broke up for the snap general election, but it did reveal plans to establish a £2m pilot Future News Fund to help local news publishers find innovative ways of providing sustainable public interest journalism.

Faure Walker pointed to Canada’s £70m annual fund which will support local journalism over the next five years, and a six-year fund in Denmark that provided £44m in 2018.

“It certainly looks light compared to the £1bn tax credits that go to other creative industries,” he said. “Why does a local museum get support but not local journalism?”

He also urged the Government to provide influence and funding to help the BBC expand its Local News Partnerships, which fund 150 local democracy reporters across the UK.

“I don’t believe in the need for long term support nor am I suggesting [the Government] support publishing companies,” he said.

“I am saying they should support local journalism and local public interest reporters for the next three to five years and work with the industry in delivering this.

“Local journalism is a huge public good, and DCMS and Government need to get out of the slow lane and be bold — otherwise our local communities, the fabric of our society, will deteriorate just at a time when we as a nation need them most.”