It is now just over a year since the Local and Community Media Network was inaugurated at a meeting at Canterbury Christ Church University. Our committee structure was confirmed at our AGM at MeCCSA 2020 in Brighton. We also hosted our first panel on the theme of ‘Interrogating the ‘community’ in local news and communication’. Since March, the network has made a sharp pivot to online activities as the pandemic both disrupted our programme and also severely impacted the sector we study. This means we have worked hard to continue our representation and consultation activities while also trying to provide some activities to support and promote the work of researchers.
Scheduled conference activities have been postponed or cancelled. These included a joint event with the Policy Network planned for in Coventry in June and a panel drawing together international academics focusing on Local and Community Media as part of ECREA 2020, scheduled for Portugal in October. The latter event has now been delayed until September 2021 and the former has been superseded by the online webinars, as reported in Three-D. These seminars will resume in the Autumn.
We have been able to continue our work with external organisations working in the local and community media sector. This includes submitted evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee of Communications and Digital inquiry into the Future of Journalism in April. The network is also working with Impress, the independent Press Regulator, to develop a sustainable and resilient independent news sector in the UK. Network secretary David Baines joined its Independent Publishers Taskforce in an advisory capacity as it developed a response to the Cairncross Review: A Sustainable Future for Journalism, which had reported in February, 2019. The taskforce included publishers from beyond the corporate news sector, responsible for a wide range of journalism at a local and regional level, and resulted in the policy document: Supporting Public Interest News: A Blueprint, published in November, 2019. That strategical initiative gave rise to the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), led today by former Impress Director Jonathan Heawood. Jonathan has now joined the Network and on June 3, he led one of our online research webinars on the challenges the independent sector faces in the pandemic.