Axing the handouts for ‘subsidy junkie’ regional media

Watch the full event here. 

Journalists need skills other than subbing and writing: they need to fill a niche and to stop being afraid of dealing with money.

And with the new Lib-Con government finally and conclusively shutting the door on the idea of giving over public funds to support innovative multimedia regional franchises (Independently Funded News Consortia, or IFNCs) – they might need those entrepreneurial skills sooner rather than later.

That was the general feeling at last night’s Frontline Club panel discussion entitled “On the media: What now for local and regional media in the UK?”

On the panel were Richard Hooper, former deputy chairman of Ofcom and chair of the IFNC selection panel; Alex Connock, CEO of the multimedia production companany Ten Alps; Jon Slattery, freelance journalist formerly of Press Gazette, and Marc Reeves, editor of The Business Desk and formerly editor of the Birmingham Post. The panel was chaired by the Frontline Club’s Patrick Smith.


The discussion began with the local media industry’s perennial problem: regional advertising revenue is drying up almost faster than we can sack journalists and nobody can offer up a business model to revive TV and newspapers.

The panel took place only hours after culture secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed the government would market test the roll-out of nationwide “super-fast” broadband connections instead of the £47 million-a-year IFNC progreamme.

Alex Connock said that decision is a missed opportunity to help regional news into recovery, twisting the knife further into the back of an ailing industry:

Local news isn’t covered unless there’s a rampage or Notting Hill involved, but you could have had IFNCs getting together covering those if the funding hadn’t been axed.

Hunt argued that although the IFNC bids had merit, they risked turning the regional media into “subsidy junkies and Richard Hooper said he agreed with him that the solution might lie in relaxing media ownership regulation.

Marc Reeves, whose employer is set to make £1 million in revenue this year, said that the answer doesn’t lie in subsidies, but rather in niche content and good sales people:

I’m surprised there isn’t more specialised, focused journalism such as sport or arts and leisure…the problem is, hyper-local (journalists) are really rubbish at being hyper-local salespeople

Later, I caught up with Reeves on the subject of niche content and job creation. Here’s what he said:



Suffice it to say, there’s still much to chew over when it comes to solving the problem of failing regional media. Until we resolve that one, however, here are a selection of tweets from the evening to give some food for thought: