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More government support needed to halt damaging decline of local journalism

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A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (DCMS) report into the sustainability of local journalism has warned the government it must act to halt the decline in local news, and that more needs to be done to support smaller, independent publishers like Wiltshire Publications, which produces the Melksham News.

Following the publication of the report, Damian Green MP, acting chairman of the cross-party committee said, “With the shift towards online readership swallowing up traditional print revenues, many local newspapers, which have served their communities for years, have struggled to keep their heads above water. While hundreds have already folded, those that remain are faced with a lack of resources to conduct quality journalism, forcing them into a downward spiral of decline, as readership and therefore revenues continue to fall further.

“The disappearance of local news providers, which have always acted as the eyes and ears of their readers and held local decision makers to account, has ripped a hole in the heart of many communities. “

While there are many success stories of innovation, the very nature of having smaller audiences and limited reach means local publishers find it hard to float in a market that rewards scale. The sector can have a sustainable future, but without more support and a rebalancing of the rules to help smaller publishers, the decline in local journalism and all the negative impacts associated with it will continue.”

The findings of the report have been welcomed by many local news providers. Joe McCann, operations manager at the Melksham News said, “The findings of the report highlight the important role the local news sector plays in promoting democracy and increasing participation in civic life. People want a trusted source of local news and information that’s produced locally and professionally, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller news providers to operate. We hope that the government will act upon the recommendations in the report and more support is invested in local news providers, particularly independent ones.”

Photo: The DCMS Select Committee hearing in Cardiff last year, attended by Melksham News.

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