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December 8, 2014

Government funding needed to help hyperlocals fill democratic deficit says report

By Emily Shackleton

A report published by the Carnegie UK Trust today has recommended a package of support measures to help the growth of the UK’s hyperlocal news sector.

The Trust outlined a series of recommendations, including funding from the UK government and the Big Lottery, as well as assistance from the BBC and Ofcom for the emerging sector.

The report said financial support was needed to help new community-run news websites to fill the gaps in democratic accountability left behind by widespread closures of local newspapers.  

In 2012, Press Gazette revealed that there had been over 240 local press closures across the UK in the previous five years, leaving parts of the country uncovered by professional journalists.

 report by the Media Reform Coalition this year revealed that a quarter of the 406 Local Government Areas do not have any daily newspaper coverage.

Douglas White, head of advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “There are fewer journalists working in our communities even as we move towards a greater devolution of power.

“Despite digital hyperlocal news providers addressing news gaps and democratic deficits in many areas across the country, their coverage across communities remains patchy. They are also not eligible for much of the public support currently available to UK local media.”

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Over the last two years, the Trust has been working with five websites as part of its Neighbourhood News programme to develop innovative ways of reporting news.

Michael Casey is the publisher of Your Harlow, a video-based local news website which is supported by the Carnegie UK Trust.

He said: "It kills me the amount of money swept into vanity projects in TV that we could do for a fraction of the price.

The [funding] measures would be great. We could use it to empower people to film and record."

The full report can be downloaded from the Carnegie UK Trust’s website here. 

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