Representatives from the sector will ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to bring in changes in the Communications Bill
A group of journalists, academics and charitable funders is to ask the government to make it easier for charitable trusts and foundations to fund not-for-profit local newspapers.
Representatives from trusts and foundations, charities and newspapers will meet officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport next month to discuss changes they would like to see under the Communications Bill.
These could include asking the Charity Commission to make it easier for local newspapers to gain charitable status, which would help them attract funding from trusts and foundations. The regulator does not recognise the provision of news as a charitable activity.
A green paper on the bill is due to be produced later this year, according to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, and a draft bill is due by 2013.
The meeting, organised by the academic bodies Polis and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, has been arranged to coincide with the publication of a new RISJ report, Is There a Better Structure for News Providers? The Potential in Charitable and Trust Ownership, which proposes new models for the charitable ownership of local news publishers.
Robert Picard, director of research at the RISJ and co-editor of the new report, told Third Sector: "A number of foundations have indicated they would invest in local newspapers and news websites, particularly in those areas of the UK where there is little or no local news coverage at present."
He said, however, that in some cases it would be necessary for the newspapers themselves to be registered charities, in order to attract investment from charitable funders.
"At the moment the Charity Commission doesn’t recognise the provision of news as an educational activity that would merit charitable status, and of course there are issues around whether a charitable newspaper could take a political stance," he said.
"I don’t think these problems are insurmountable, and I hope that at the meeting we will start to find a way around them."