Give charitable status to some media outlets, says Jeremy Corbyn

In an Edinburgh speech, the leader of the Labour Party said granting the status to some newspapers and other organisations would help to support public interest, investigative and local reporting

Jeremy Corbyn (Photograph: Getty Images)
Jeremy Corbyn (Photograph: Getty Images)

Local newspapers and media organisations specialising in investigative journalism should receive charitable status, according to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.

In a speech in Edinburgh today, Corbyn said charitable status would help to provide a viable business model to support journalism, in particular public interest, investigative and local reporting.

Corbyn said charitable status would use tax exemptions, grants and donations to help fund investigative and local journalism.

"The best journalism takes on the powerful, in the corporate world as well as government, and helps create an informed public," he said.

"That work costs money. We value it, but somehow that doesn’t translate into proper funding and legal support.

"So we should look at granting charitable status for some local, investigative and public interest journalism."

Charities are legally defined as organisations with specific, charitable purposes and which operate exclusively in the public interest.

The idea of making local newspapers charities has been proposed before, with Lord Andrew Phillips, a Liberal democrat peer, suggesting in 2011 that local newspapers could be run as charities because they provided a service to community life.

A report produced by the charitable foundation the Carnegie UK Trust and Cooperatives UK in 2013 said communities should be allowed to take over local newspapers as local assets and run them as cooperatives.

Corbyn said today that any new media charities could be financed in part either by a fund set up by tech companies or by a tax on "digital monopolies".

He said: "A strong, self-confident government could negotiate with these tech giants to create a fund, run entirely independently, to support public interest media. Google and news publishers in France and Belgium were able to agree a settlement.

"If we can’t do something similar here, but on a more ambitious scale, we’ll need to look at the option of a windfall tax on the digital monopolies to create a public interest media fund."

BBC funding for local democracy reporters working in local newspapers could be reformed and expanded, Corbyn said, with some of those funds made available to "local, community and investigative news coops, with a mandate to use significant time and resources reporting on public institutions, public service providers, local government, outsourced contractors and regulated bodies".

Corbyn also reiterated plans to expand the Freedom of Information Act to cover the private providers of public services, which could include some charities.

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