We are excited to announce the Future News Fund today - backed by the UK Government and run by Nesta.
The £2 million fund will back promising technologies, models and ideas so communities across the UK have access to reliable and accurate news about the issues that matter most to them.
Whilst the applications won’t open until autumn 2019, we wanted to share why we are excited about it, what you can expect and how you can get involved at this stage.
We want to build a future that belongs to everyone in the UK. Ensuring everyone has access to reliable, accurate and high-quality public interest news is key. You should be able to connect quickly to information as a way to hold public institutions such as politicians, councils, courts or school boards to account. You should have access to high quality local investigative journalism to uncover when politicians and public institutions commit wrongdoings and ensure that those we elect and appoint to run our social infrastructures do so well. You should be able to give a platform to the issues and campaigns that matter to you most locally.
This type of news, especially at local level, is diminishing and disappearing across the UK as advertising revenues shrink and consumers move to digital and free to air platforms. It has already led to “news deserts” and some would argue is fueling a sense of inequality. This is hugely problematic, as the Cairncross Review has shown in the evidence it gathered.
Low or no public interest news increases many risks. That public finances are badly managed and irresponsible decisions perpetuated. The Grenfell Tower fire is a recent example where concerns of citizens about nuisances might have well been brought to light had local news capacity not disappeared. Other risks include that new candidates have less chances to replace incumbents. That fewer people vote and trust and social cohesion crumble. The breeding ground of fake news, disinformation and populist claims grows and it becomes harder for us to exert our citizen rights and democratic control.
The Grenfell Tower fire is a recent example where concerns of citizens about nuisances might have well been brought to light had local news capacity not disappeared
With the Future News Fund, we aim to help tackle those challenges and work towards a reboot of our democratic immune system.
We will share more details in autumn 2019, but we want to support existing local news providers to find new ways to collaborate and test new models, as well as support new players and technological innovations that can amplify quality local news and solve the challenges to our democratic immune system. We learnt from our previous funds in this area - such as the Destination Local Fund - that solutions to the challenges above need a combination of technological solutions, new models for producing and disseminating public interest and support for providers of local and regional news across the UK to build the capacities and space to experiment and work differently.
With this fund we are practising what we often preach: that it is best to test, learn and iterate. We are not aiming to solve all challenges in one go with a £2 million fund - that won’t work. We will run the Future News Fund between autumn 2019 and spring 2020 to prototype what a bigger innovation fund (a recommendation from the Cairncross review) should look like. This will help the government shape decisions about whether and how to run a full, expanded fund in the future.
For all this, we need your involvement!
We are big believers in mobilising the potential, ideas and solutions inside everyone. Innovation can come from anywhere and anyone. Do you have a solution that could help revive reliable, accurate and high-quality public interest news across the country? Do you have practical thoughts you want to share with us on the dos and don’ts for this prototype fund? In both cases, reach out to us at: [email protected].
Image: William Hook, Unsplash