This is the first report for the newly-formed Local and Community Media Network. The network largely came about as a result of talks at last year’s ECREA and MeCCSA conferences – both of which convinced us that it was high time research into this vital area of media was given a higher profile both within and outside the academy. One of our key aims is to promote work relating to the impact of structural changes precipitated by digital changes on local and community media. There are, clearly, synergies with existing MeCCSA networks, and we will be looking to collaborate and support these in our work. Anyone working in this area will be aware of the excellent research which is being done around the country into local and community media, and so it seemed apposite to create an umbrella organisation to represent the area and to help move it forward.
The founding members – Rachel Matthews, David Baines and Agnes Gulyas – put forward the proposal for the network to the MeCCSA Executive committee in the immediate aftermath of the 2019 conference in Stirling. We were delighted to win the support of the committee and held an inaugural meeting at Canterbury Christ Church University in April following a successful call for expressions of interest from the MeCCSA membership.
At this meeting we discussed key areas for the network to focus on, which include::
- Research into democratic value of local and community media – content and audience perspectives
- Ecosystems – decline of traditional sources, impact of new entrants and also alternative providers – hyperlocal/community journos
- Engagement – between producers and consumers
- Research into interventions – LDRs, regulation, ethics
- Networking/collaboration – critical mass
- Advocacy – for these areas as significant and impactful
The discussion on the day was wide ranging and interrogated the very basic meanings of terms such as local and community, as well as the disparate impact of digital on local versus national. Opportunities to research, engage with and support interventions were also discussed and highlighted, with lots of expertise in this area among the attendees. Organisations represented on the day included the Community Media Association, the Media Innovation Studio at UCLAN, the Independent Community News Network, based at Cardiff University, and the Reuters Institute at Oxford University. Having considered gaps in current scholarship and priorities, the forum identified some concrete actions to do with providing a platform for people working in this area and working towards a thorough literature review of existing scholarship. The network committee is now working on actualising these goals.
Notably, we have already networked with the alternative press regulator, Impress, having been invited to the last meeting of their Independent Publishers Taskforce, held in London in June and attended on our behalf by our secretary, David Baines. Our next priority is to offer one or two targeted panels to the annual MeCCSA conference at Brighton in January 2020 and a call for papers has been circulated with this end in mind. We will also hold our first annual network meeting at this event and would welcome anyone who is interested in getting involved either virtually or practically. The network committee would particularly welcome people who can offer hands-on digital and social media support in order to progress identified projects. If you would like to get involved, then please do sign up to our jiscmail via the MeCCSA website; alternatively, contact network chair, Rachel Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org.