Positive_Plurality_cover-e1412775000170On 9 October 2014, the Media Standards Report published a new report entitled Addressing the Democratic Deficit in Local News through Positive Plurality Or, why we need a UK alternative of the Knight News Challenge [pdf]  

The report finds that :

  • Innovation in local news and information is urgently needed to address the decline in local newspapers and to help support and reinvent local news and community information for the 21st century
  • Without such reinvention we risk weakening our civic communities and our local authorities becoming unaccountable
  • There is a window of opportunity for the UK government to seed, through an independently run competition at no cost to the taxpayer, a flowering of innovation in news and information and civic technology at a local level
  • The opportunity for innovation and growth will decline as non-UK technology platforms further colonise local media space

The problem

  • Local newspapers are in crisis and increasingly unable to perform the role we expect of our Fourth Estate at a local level
  • Hyperlocal websites are starting to fill the democratic gap, but slowly and intermittently
  • Open data has yet to animate an army of armchair auditors, as the Coalition government hoped it would
  • Civic technology has not taken off in the UK as it has in the US

The opportunity

  • Rarely has there been such a range of inexpensive tools available to innovate in news and information
  • Relatively small awards – of between £10,000-£50,000 can have an impact far beyond their effect in other sectors
  • There has been innovation in local news and community information in the UK, but nothing like on the scale there has been in the US
  • US Foundations and private investors invested over $400m (c.£250m) in US civic technology between 2011-2013, far more than was invested in the UK

Contestable funding

  • Competitions have grown increasingly popular as a way to motivate innovation
  • Competitions like the Knight News Challenge in the US have shown how effective they can be at encouraging innovation in local news and information
  • The UK has a strong record of distributing awards to creative ventures in an independent and efficient manner


  • Money for a competition need not come from existing public funds
  • Google put €60m towards a French news transition fund
  • There is a closing window of opportunity

See Martin Moore’s post about the report on the LSE Media Policy Project blog, “Why we need a UK equivalent of the Knight News Challenge“.

The full report can be downloaded here [pdf]