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Drawing deep expertise from UK civil society, politics, trade unions and business to shape media policy. 

About the project

 

Why a Local News Commission? 

Policymakers from all sides of the political divide have said localism is a priority, but unfortunately have not yet made the connection between the localism agenda and the local news agenda.

The Government announced £4.8bn to ‘realise the potential of every place and give left behind communities the same level of opportunity as other areas’, whilst Sir Keir Starmer has said that a Labour government would oversee ‘a huge power shift out of Westminster’ so that local communities can ‘control their own destiny.’

Whether we focus on levelling up or devolving down, we need vibrant local news to create pride in place and ensure that local power responds to the concerns of local people

This is why the Public Interest News Foundation is launching a rapid action Local News Commission, bringing together a dozen leading thinkers and policymakers on localism, combined with deep expertise in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

What will the Commissioners do? 

The Commissioners will meet between July and November 2024, with the first meeting taking place in London days after the General Election.

 

They will produce a list of policy recommendations on local news for the incoming Government, and act as ambassadors in high-level political and funding networks, and within their own sectors and professional networks. 

They will consider three key areas: the value of local news to community and democracy, the barriers to local news thriving in the UK, and solutions to overcome these barriers.

Through this Commission, we will break out of the silo that encloses the debate about local news and build a new coalition.

Who are the Commissioners? 

Jon Alexander (New Citizen Project) 

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'All over the country and indeed the world, people are coming together in their communities to figure out how they can create the future they want, not waiting for anyone to do it for them.

 

'Local news is both vital equipment for this work of citizening, and - with many communities now creating their own media - an expression of it. I'm looking forward to being part of this Commission and working together to understand the best of what is already happening, and what might be possible if the potential were truly unleashed.'

Biography: Jon is author of CITIZENS: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us, and co-founder of the New Citizen Project, a book and company committed to shifting the dominant story of the individual in society from Consumer to Citizen. Among other plaudits, CITIZENS was recently listed by McKinsey as one of its Top 5 Recommended Books in its Summer Reading Guide 2022, described as "an underground hit" in the Financial Times, and selected by the World Economic Forum for its CEO Book Club. Jon began his career with a decade in the advertising industry, winning the prestigious Big Creative Idea of the Year, before making a dramatic change. Driven by a deep need to understand the impact on society of 3,000 commercial messages a day, he gathered three Masters degrees, exploring Consumerism and its alternatives from every angle. In 2014, he co-founded the New Citizen Project to bring the resulting ideas into contact with reality. In CITIZENS, he is ready to share them with the world.

Debra Allcock Tyler (Directory of Social Change)

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'The bulk of charities serving communities are small and very local – they rely heavily on their local news to tell stories about their work, their struggles and triumphs; to report issues affecting citizens which might affect their charity’s work, to campaign with them for changes in policy at local levels and to give a fair and balanced view of what is affecting the communities they serve.


'In an era where national news is so riven with populism and distortion of the facts, people rely even more heavily on local news to help inform them about what really matters in their area – and more importantly – how they can help!'

Biography: Debra has worked in the charitable and voluntary sector for nearly 40 years with brief forays into the private sector. Amongst numerous other roles, she is Co-Chair of the Soldiering on Awards. She is a Trustee of In Kind Direct, one of the Prince's Foundation Charities, a governor of the Berkshire NHS Community Foundation Trust, a Commissioner on the Local News Commission of the Public Interest News Foundation, and just recently stood down as trustee of the Berkshire Community Foundation. She is also an Africa Advocacy Foundation Ambassador for women and girls at risk of or affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Debra has served as a trustee of several charities including being the co-founder of the Small Charities Coalition and was its first Chair. She served on the Charity Commission's SORP committee for over 7 years and was the Vice-Chair of Governors of Whiteknights primary school for 6 years. She is a renowned public speaker with many years' experience of training and coaching and is an internationally published author of several books on management and leadership including It's Tough at the Top; The Pleasure and the Pain; It's Murder in Management and It's a Battle on the Board. Debra has a regular monthly column in Third Sector magazine and has appeared on Radio 4's The Moral Maze. Debra is an alumna of Windsor Leadership having participated on the Strategic Leaders Consultation.

Serlina Boyd (Cocoa)

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'Local news remains important and relevant. I aim to be a catalyst for change and to help drive meaningful conversations that lead to tangible results.

 

'Currently, local issues and events are not receiving adequate coverage in the news, and discussing them could potentially save lives. Comprehensive coverage of community news is essential.'

Biography: Serlina is the founder of Cocoa, the UK’s first Black children’s magazines (Cocoa Girl and Cocoa Boy). These magazines were driven by a desire to build her then 6-year old daughter’s confidence after she experienced bullying at school because of the colour of her skin. Publishing Cocoa Girl has been an empowering journey for her and her family and especially her daughter (who is also the editor). In 4 weeks, the magazine grew a readership of over 10,000 children after posting the magazine cover idea on a Facebook page during COVID. The magazine pre orders were selling a magazine a second at one point. The overwhelming positive feedback and demand for the magazines confirm the crucial need to build a strong community for young Black girls and boys who are often misrepresented by mainstream media. As a qualified childcare provider and having worked in the publishing industry for 18 years, launching Cocoa Publishing has given Serlina the opportunity to combine her passion for children and the media. Cocoa magazines are tackling the deep-rooted problem of the underrepresentation of Black people in the media. The magazine is now sold globally, and its brand licence has been acquired by Pearson. The magazine is part of the school Bug Club library in all schools across the UK and has grown an audience of 2.1 million children. Bug Club is the core reading program to help teachers and parents develop confident and motivated readers.

Katie Kelly (New Local)

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'As chair of New Local, a UK Think Tank with a commitment to advancing community power, I am honoured to be part of the Local News Commission.

 

'This is such an important review at this point in our history as good quality local news is a vital currency in nurturing a sense of place and community pride.

 

'It contributes to local democracy and puts the power in the hands of local people to digest and share stories that are important to them, helps to build cohesion, expose weaknesses in our economy and society and a focus on our collective strengths to improve community life and wellbeing.'

Biography: Katie is the chair of New Local, an independent think tank and network of public sector bodies with a mission to transform public services and unlock community power. She is an affiliate at Nurture Development Asset Based Community Development, an Executive Coach, Mentor and Strategic Advisor. She is the former Deputy Chief Executive with East Ayrshire Council where she developed and led the unique and nationally acclaimed Vibrant Communities approach. She has recently retired following an incredible career of over 30 years in the public, health and communities’ sectors. Across the UK Katie is an outspoken champion for Community Power, Servant Leadership, Community Wealth Building and Public service Transformation, and is a regular contributor and panel member at national conferences. Katie has been a member of a number of Expert Advisory Groups including Health Inequalities, Violence Against Women and Girls, People and Place and Gambling Harm.

Neil McInroy (Economic Development Association Scotland and Democracy Collaborative)

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'In a world of climate and other crises, the need for news and information that is plural and independent is essential.

 

'Too much of our news is dominated by big players with vested interests.

'Therefore to advance local news and information is the basis to a healthy and just democracy, and the development of effective social and economic policy decisions at local, regional and national levels.' 

Biography: Neil is an experienced policy thinker and adviser, researcher, practitioner, and organisational leader. He is the Global Lead for Community Wealth Building at The Democracy Collaborative. Based in USA, TDC are a leading think, do and change tank, working to grow the democratic economy. He also Chairs of Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS) - the go to body for all individuals and organisations with an interest in Scotland’s economic development. For 20 years till 2021, he was the Chief Executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES)- the UK's national organisation for progressive local economies and was Managing Director of New Start Magazine. Neil is driven by a desire and passion to build an economy that is democratic, just and fair. Over his 25 years career, Neil has gathered extensive experience in economic, social and environmental policy, including economic development, with a mission to deliver meaningful practice and real change.

Henri Murison (Northern Powerhouse Partnership)

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'As we see greater powers and responsibility transferred to our places through devolution, the importance of local and regional journalism has never been clearer.

 

'We need to be able to hold those in power to account and more and more of this work is falling to those national journalists based outside London who do an admirable job.

 

'However, the commitment of these organisations is never going to be enough to fulfil an ever growing demand.'

Biography: Since his appointment in 2017, Henri has established the Northern Powerhouse Partnership as the business-led organisation which convenes the North together. From having made the case consistently for both HS2 to the North alongside Northern Powerhouse Rail, to challenging for a better deal for the most disadvantaged from the education system, his team are focused on how government, business and partners can drive the North’s ambitions. Before joining the Partnership, he worked in senior research and policy roles in policing and financial services, and as a former senior local government figure in Newcastle upon Tyne remains a commentator on regional and wider industrial policy. Since 2020 he has also served as a member of the Royal Society Science, Industry and Translation Committee, as well as last year being appointed to the Court of Newcastle University.

Polly Neate (Shelter)

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'Local news is critical to our informed engagement with how our communities are run. In housing alone, decisions are made at local level, by councils and by developers, that fundamentally affect the environment, the community, and the ability of individuals to have a safe place to call home.

 

'We all need to understand how decisions are made, and how we can influence them. And an organisation like Shelter, that exists to defend the right to a safe home, operates best in communities where people are empowered to understand – and, if necessary, challenge – the decisions that affect their daily lives.

 

'Effective local democracy requires accountability, and active communities where people look out for each other. Local news is a key factor in both.'

Biography: Polly Neate CBE FAcSS LLD(hc) is CEO of Shelter, the charity that defends the right to a safe home. She is a prominent media commentator and speaker on social justice, housing and homelessness, leadership, feminism and women’s issues, on platforms ranging from the Oxford Union to the first Women’s March London. She was previously CEO of Women’s Aid and, before that, Executive Director at Action for Children, and has spent many years both campaigning publicly and influencing at the highest levels of government. She is also a trustee of Women in Sport and the Young Women’s Trust, a member of Bayes Business School Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, and non-executive director of Wessex Local Medical Committees. She is part of the Founding Group of A Better Way Network and of the Charity Reform Group.

Baroness Frances O'Grady (House of Lords, formerly Trade Unions Congress)

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'Vibrant local news and public interest journalism are vital to a healthy democracy and stronger communities.

 

'We need new ways to revitalise local journalism to help hold power to account.'

Biography: Frances has been an active trade unionist and campaigner all her working life, starting in shop work and hospitality. Frances joined the TUC in 1994 to run campaigns for equal rights for part-timers and win decent pay. Later, she launched the TUC's Organising Academy to drive recruitment campaigns in call centres, supermarkets and new media, and to grow a new generation of union leaders. Frances went on to launch unionlearn, which grew to help a quarter of a million workers into learning every year. In January 2013, Frances was elected as the General Secretary of the TUC, the first woman ever to hold this post. She led the TUC through the pandemic when the union movement was key to securing the furlough scheme that protected the livelihoods of eleven million workers. Frances was appointed a Labour peer in 2013 and remains a strong believer in public ownership, decent work, and equality.

Michael Sheen (Actor and activist)

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‘I grew up in Port Talbot when there were several reporters in the town. They covered the goals I scored for the Baglan under-10s and my first acting role in the school play.

 

'They probably covered some more important stories too.

 

'Those days are gone, but I don’t want to give up on local news. If the old business model is broken, then let’s find a new one, and let’s see what the government can do to help.

 

'I’m looking forward to working with the PINF Local News Commission to help build a new era for local news in Port Talbot and across the UK.’

Sophia Smith Galer

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Biography: Sophia is an author, journalist and content creator credited with pioneering journalism on TikTok in the United Kingdom. Sophia’s investigative reporting for the BBC and VICE News across technology, culture, health and gender have won her awards around the globe and her videos on TikTok and Instagram have been viewed more than 160 million times. In 2022, British Vogue named her one of the 25 most influential women in the UK. Sophia works across international media, presenting a gender equality podcast for the BBC alongside consulting, freelance reporting and developing her own workshops and AI tools to innovate the media landscape. She creates original TikToks and Reels about languages including viral series on the etymology of food, how countries got their names and new research in sociolinguistics – all of which, alongside her news reporting, have won her more than 800,000 followers online.

'Local news is a fundamental part of how communities can hold those in power to account.

 

'We desperately need it in an era where it faces many existential threats.

 

'I look forward to contributing ideas on how local news can best serve young people and digital audiences, as well as how they can work directly with young people to provide training, opportunities and jobs.

 

'I am so excited to get started.'

Sir Phil Redmond CBE (Writer and TV Producer)

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'There is much talk around the notion that people are disenchanted or disconnected from politics, yet you cannot expect people to become engaged if there is no mechanism for them to be better informed or express their opinions about what matters to them most: their own local authentic voice. 

 

'Historically this voice was served and facilitated by local news outlets.

 

'Under the disruptive challenge of technology and regulatory myopia, many have either disappeared or shrunk to become franchises of more distant national brands.  

 

'This has created both a democratic and cultural deficiency, so it seems timely to explore a fresh approach to the provision of local news.'

Biography: Sir Phil Redmond is probably best known for creating a number of ground breaking drama series including Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks. In 2008 Phil was Deputy Chair and Creative Director of ‘European Capital of Culture’ (ECoC) in Liverpool. He was Chair of National Museums Liverpool from 2008-2016, and remains an Ambassador Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University and its Screen School. The UK City of Culture (UKCoC) programme was established in 2010, directly inspired and driven by him following the success and impact of Liverpool 2008, and he has been Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel since. He was awarded a CBE in 2004 for services to drama and made a Knight Bachelor for services to broadcasting and regional arts in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2020.

Yvette Williams (Justice4Grenfell Campaign)

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Biography: Yvette has a strong track record of delivery and experience in all aspects of leadership at a senior level, specialising in cultural and organisational change, promoting equality and diversity and public and community engagement strategies. She lives in Notting Hill and previously worked with the Mangrove Community Association; she is also a founding member of Operation Black Vote. Yvette was head of Equality and Diversity for the Crown Prosecution Service in London for 14 years, developing hate crime prosecution policies; improving victim and witness care and community engagement strategies . She is a co-founder of the Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign and has been a key speaker at many events. She has written for and has featured in several publications. In September 2020, Yvette featured on an iconic front fold out cover of British Vogue as one of 20 international social justice activists.

'My background in equalities and my experience leading a community campaign in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster have deeply shaped my understanding of the critical role that local news plays in fostering informed and empowered communities.

 

'My motivation for joining the Commission is driven by a profound belief in the power of local news to bridge gaps, amplify marginalised voices, and hold authorities accountable. In my equalities work, I have seen firsthand how local news can shine a light on issues that national media often overlooks, ensuring that diverse communities are heard, and their concerns addressed.

 

'This aligns with my passion for advocating for equity and inclusion across all sectors of society.  The Grenfell Tower disaster underscored the importance of local journalism. In the aftermath, it was the diligent work of the local community that brought to light the systemic failures and injustices faced by the community. Their reporting not only provided crucial information to residents but also mobilized broader public support and catalysed policy changes. This experience reinforced my belief that vibrant, independent local news is indispensable for nurturing resilient and just communities.


'Moreover, as the Government emphasises localism and devolving power, local news becomes even more crucial. It ensures transparency and accountability in local governance, enabling citizens to make informed decisions and actively participate in the democratic process. By keeping residents informed about local developments, challenges, and opportunities, local news empowers them to contribute meaningfully to their communities' growth and development.


'By joining this Commission, I hope to contribute to a future where local news is not just preserved but revitalized, ensuring that every community, regardless of its size or location, has access to reliable and robust local journalism. Together, we can turn local news into a political priority and champion its critical role in shaping a more equitable and informed society.'

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