Policy Trustees

Martin Moore: ‘Green shoots’, not bleak midwinter, in the UK journalism sector?

PBJRC trustee Dr Martin Moore has drawn together some of the threads in the wider journalism and regulatory landscape in his new piece for The Conversation.

Martin notes the financial, industrial and technological firestorms that have engulfed the news and media sector over the past decade or more:

All this paints rather a bleak picture for the future of public interest news in the UK. Yet, in the past year, we have seen the possibility of real change. A good deal of credit for this can be put down to inquiries led by two people, Dame Frances Cairncross and Jason Furman (the former chief economist to US president Barack Obama).

He also notes the report of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee, and its endorsement of charitable status for journalism, with its implications for public interest journalism in the UK:

This should mean that news publishers – should they meet the criteria – can now benefit from tax relief, foundation grants and charitable donations. Small, non-profit local news outfits may finally be able to sustain themselves while performing a critical public service.

Martin concludes on a positive note that we can all cautiously endorse:

these are all green shoots that could support the gradual recovery of public interest news – and, as a torrid and difficult year comes to an end, and in the spirit of festive cheer, we should celebrate some good news for news.

Read Martin Moore’s full post at The Conversation.

Policy Research & Evidence Trustees

House of Lords Select Committee reaffirms and strengthens support for charitable status

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee today released Breaking News, the final report for its Inquiry into the Future of Journalism.

The report, which concludes with a section articulating unequivocal support for charitable status for journalism notes that “[m]any witnesses in our current inquiry suggested that the Charity Commission should take a more expansive approach to charitable status for public interest news organisations” and that there was “wide agreement on the benefits that charitable status would provide among news organisations.”

The report also welcomes the Charity Commission’s own recent statement – when awarding charitable status to the Public Interest News Foundation – that

“public benefit of public interest journalism is evidenced by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications and Digital Committee (in its inquiry into the future of journalism) and the Cairncross Review (in its report on the sustainable future for journalism)”

Charity registration decision: Public Interest News Foundation (22 September 2020)

Drawing on work and submissions from PBJRC trustees and allies, as well as from many other contributors and witnesses, the Committee’s report is careful in weighing up the evidence and analysis on charitable status, and concludes by saying it “encourage[s] the Charity Commission to continue to recognise public interest journalism as a charitable purpose.”

Dame Frances Cairncross is cited in the report that she believes that further test cases, from actual journalism providers, will be needed to help more clearly establish the parameters of what is and what is not charitable. If you are aware of current or potential test cases, please do get in touch, as we are documenting these as part of our research.

Events Trustees

APPG Media & hold public panel on public interest news

Today the All-Party Parliamentary Media Group of the UK Houses of Parliament held a public panel discussion, sponsored by, on public interest news in the UK – and it featured significant discussion of charitable status for journalism, including from PBJRC trustee Rachel Oldroyd.

Alongside Rachel on the panel were:
– Jonathan Heawood, Public Interest News Foundation (which recently acquired charitable status)
– Adam Newby, NewsNow
– Matt Rogerson, Guardian Media Group

You can watch the whole panel discussion here:

It was particularly striking to hear Adam Newby of agreeing with the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee and with the Cairncross Review that charitable status is a necessary part of a healthy media landscape.

Events Trustees

Charitable status discussed at DataHarvest 2020

Our trustee Kitty von Bertele, of funder Luminate, spoke on a panel today at the European DataHarvest conference about moves across Europe to establish charitable status for journalism.

Stephanie Reuter, Director of the Rudolf Augstein Stiftung, spoke about the Forum Gemeinnütziger Journalismus, the coalition raising debate about similar changes in Germany.

We’re not sure if a summary or a video of the session will be published – if so, we’ll update this post with a link.


Charity Commission recognises ‘charitable journalism’

In a significant new development, the Charity Commission has today granted charitable status to the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), an organisation developed through consultation with a group of UK independent news publishers.

“Whilst there are already a number of journalistic charities operating for educational and similar purposes, PINF is the first to be registered with a specific, ‘charitable journalism’ purpose. In legal terms, this represents a new interpretation of the law to recognise that public benefit journalism can be charitable.”

Tom Murdoch, Partner in the Charity & Social Enterprise team at Stone King, who advised on PINF’s charitable registration

The Charity Commission’s decision has been published here, and will be of note to others in the UK journalism field and in media philanthropy, as well as to peers in Canada, Australia, Germany and other countries grappling with similar questions.


House of Lords evidence from Bates Wells Braithwaite

As part of the House of Lords Inquiry into the Future of Journalism, Lawrie Simanowitz, Partner at Bates Wells Braithwaite, and longstanding legal expert on the charitable status for journalism, made a submission. Here’s a brief extract:

The Cairncross Review clearly recognised the benefit to the public brought by certain types of journalism. This included local newspapers (which across the UK are disappearing or denuded) providing essential information to local communities. Investigative journalists exposing abuses of power are another example of public benefit journalism – one of the most at risk, as news organisations’ ability to fund high quality research and reporting comes under threat.

To help meet the public benefit requirement, there would need to be a mechanism to ensure that appropriate standards were met by news organisations with charitable status. In particular this would help to ensure that such organisations were not politically partisan, maintained minimum quality standards and avoided sensationalism for example. Proposals for how this could be achieved are set out in the annex to the paper submitted by the PBJRC.

Lawrie Simanowitz, Partner, Bates Wells Braithwaite – Submission to House of Lords (21 April 2020)