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Tories unveil plan for future of journalism

P&J Courier DC Thomson

Local papers play a vital role in democracy

A recovery plan for journalism has been launched by the Scottish Conservatives to support the long term future of the industry as it copes with a downturn in advertising and switch to digital formats.

The plan will support local journalism and newspapers through additional funding streams, support for national media with additional Scottish Government advertising spend, rates relief and a journalism foundation. 

It has been drafted in collaboration with the National Union of Journalists and follows previous interventions from the Scottish Conservatives to support the sector.

The move is announced as the owner of the Herald newspapers in Glasgow announced more staff cuts.

In April, Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary launched a short term local newspaper appeal seeking increased financial assistance for the industry after lockdown caused serious damage to circulation figures.

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary, last month secured the same financial support for local newspapers as the retail, leisure and hospitality industries.

Maurice Golden, Scottish Conservative shadow economy and culture secretary launched the plan which will –

  • Establish a Journalism Foundation – to invest in local journalism, innovative media projects, new start ups and vital areas of quality and investigative journalism which are no longer supported elsewhere.
  • Confer “asset of community value” status on local newspapers, ensuring that titles facing closure, or potential sale to owners who fund little local content, could be preserved for potential community ownership.
  • Offer rates relief and other financial support for journalistic co-operatives and local social enterprises taking over titles from major commercial operators, and running them as not-for-profit enterprises.
  • Ensure that government and agency advertising is strategically invested in innovative journalism and local and hyperlocal news initiatives, as well as in mainstream media.

Mr Golden said: “The lockdown has had an extreme impact on local and national media circulations.

“Despite opposition from the SNP the Scottish Conservatives managed to secure additional financial support for local newspapers last month.

“At the time we said that it wouldn’t be enough and we called on the SNP government to put forward a longer term plan to help this struggling industry.

“Our plan supports local and national papers; from the ground up, through advertising and with support for journalists.

“A functioning media is absolutely crucial for a well-functioning democracy – there is simply no option, the SNP government must support newspapers and ensure their long term survival.”

Daily Business editor Terry Murden, commented: “It is important in any debate about the future of journalism not to focus simply on ‘newspapers’.

“All newspapers now also have an online version of their news output and any support for the industry needs to recognise the shift in readership to digital formats.

“Online journalism also faces challenges. The free BBC website and social media put added pressure on commercial news outlets and must be factored into the discussion on the future of journalism.

“Many websites are free to access but are not produced without funding support. There are opportunities for those campaigning to support journalism to make a small contribution that will help ensure their survival.”

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