Image: courtesy ICNN

A UK-wide community news network has launched a petition calling for a “bespoke” funding package from government after finding that 95 per cent of local independent news providers have received no support during lockdown.

The Independent Community News Network (ICNN) says £35 million earmarked for the newspaper industry in the wake of the pandemic is not reaching local independents.

In partnership with the Public Interest News Foundation, ICNN, of which the Citizen is a member, has created a petition urging people to write to their MPs.

It states: “Local independent news providers are the most trusted source of news in the media. However, over 95 per cent of them have received zero support from the government since the start of the lockdown.

“While £35m has been allocated to the ‘newspaper industry’ in order to save lives by providing essential information to the public, and support the press, this money is not reaching the local independent news sector.”

The petition allows people to put in their postcode and generate a template letter which can then be sent straight to their local MP.

The letter calls on MPs to write to media secretary Oliver Dowden, asking him to “create a bespoke funding agreement to support the local independent press in consultation with the ICNN and other independent press representatives”.

It adds: “Seventy-five per cent of local independent newspapers are facing temporary or permanent closure, while 80 per cent do not have insurance that covers them for the challenges they now face.

“Moreover, 95 per cent of local independent news providers have found that government initiatives to date have done nothing to support the sector.

“The corporate press, on the other hand, which is more profitable, more resilient and more influential, has benefited significantly from the UK government’s emergency measures to support the ‘newspaper industry’.”

A major bone of contention is a £35m public health advertising campaign, ‘All-in all together’, from which, the letter states, “local independent news providers have been almost entirely excluded”.

The letter continues: “The advertising deal has a secondary purpose of providing the public with information about Covid-19.  Yet for such a campaign to be effective, it would need to appear in trusted publications with a high readership.

“The newspapers which have participated to date have included some of the least-trusted publications in the entire industry.”

It concludes: “Local independent news providers are more trusted, more ethical, and more reliable than the corporate press. They provide a vital service to communities across the country, and their collective reach exceeds that of many national titles.

“As key workers, they have continued to work through the crisis. But they face financial hardship because the government has preferred to channel funding to the corporate press.

“A bespoke funding agreement to support local independent news providers in consultation with the ICNN and other independent press representatives would save the independent sector and allow local journalists across the UK to go on serving their communities.”

The petition urges anyone who “values their local independent paper or news website and relies on it for accurate, essential and up-to-date information about the coronavirus pandemic” to take part.

You can find the petition here.

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