Co-written with Judith Townend, from the University of Sussex, the article draws on an AHRC-funded research project on media plurality, in which Professor Barnett and Judith participated, based at the University of Westminster from 2013-14.
Talking about the ‘broken’ traditional business model of advertising, Professor Barnett said: “Local newspapers are closing in some areas, leaving a ‘democratic deficit’ of people less well informed about their own hospitals, schools, transport, housing and so on, while local courts, councils, police forces and other local bodies attract very limited or no journalistic scrutiny and are therefore less accountable to local citizens.”
The article called on non-profit local media outlets to be granted charitable status where the public interest is served. It highlighted the challenges faced when trying to do so, blaming the Charity Commission and the difficult and costly application process. It also outlined concerns to be resolved before opening up that kind of funding for journalism.
Professor Barnett concluded: “With some creative thinking and greater political will, it may at last be possible to open up some much-needed additional funding for journalism – which will not only enrich democracy but also provide outlets for talented journalists who increasingly struggle to find sustainable employment within traditional media outlets.”