Official recognition of ‘charitable journalism’ enables support for the future of high quality, impartial news

Journalism can be charitable according to an important decision that will enable vital support to independent providers of accurate, politically impartial news.

As reported in The Guardian, the Charity Commission has awarded charitable status to the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), including a renewed interpretation of charity law around public interest news. This decision is a significant development for journalism and journalistic charities, the charity sector and the news-reading public.

The move comes in the wake of a House of Lords inquiry into the future of journalism and the Cairncross Review recommending that journalism should be recognised as a charitable purpose, and will enable PINF to work with donors and support the future of politically impartial news providers that serve the public interest.

Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of PINF, says: “Journalism is changing. Independent news providers are springing up all over the UK. They are serving communities with impartial journalism in the public interest. But they face huge challenges. 

“This decision means we can ensure the public have access to high-quality, independent news, by supporting public interest publishers with grants, training and resources. We have already awarded emergency grants to publishers who were struggling during lockdown, and now we can support more public interest news organisations across the UK.”

This renewed recognition of charitable journalism is also a significant development in the charity sector.

Tom Murdoch, Partner in the Charity & Social Enterprise team at Stone King, who advised on PINF’s charitable registration, explains: “Whilst there are already a number of journalistic charities operating for educational and similar purposes, PINF is the first to be registered with a specific, ‘charitable journalism’ purpose. In legal terms, this represents a new interpretation of the law to recognise that public benefit journalism can be charitable.”

He adds: “Misinformation forms part of our daily newsfeed and, at worst, can influence democratic processes. This recognition of charitable journalism by the Charity Commission means that PINF can now support, with new streams of charitable funding, journalism that is objective and non-party political. By definition, Public Interest News supported by PINF must be produced to high ethical standards, for the benefit of members of the public.”

Public Interest News Foundation became a registered charity on 22 September 2020.

Dame Frances Cairncross, author of the Cairncross Review of Public Interest Journalism, says: “My Review found a market failure in the supply of public interest news. Among other things, I recommended that public interest journalism should be recognised as a charitable object. So, I am delighted that the Charity Commission has granted PINF charitable status.’

Lord Richard Inglewood, former Chair of the House of Lords Communications Committee, says: “As a former newspaper publisher, I know how hard it is these days to pay for good journalism. In 2012, when I was Chair of the House of Lords Communications Committee, we recommended that bona fide investigative journalism should be charitable, in order to attract grants and donations. Now, as a trustee of PINF, I am very glad that we can provide public interest news publishers with charitable support.’

Emma Meese, Director of the Independent & Community News Network, says: “Across the UK, independent and community newspapers and websites are providing audiences with vital democratic information. They desperately need more support, so the possibility of new charitable funding is good news all around. At ICNN, we look forward to working with PINF to support and promote this fantastic sector.”

To read the Charity Commission’s decision in full, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/charity-registration-decision-public-interest-news-foundation/charity-registration-decision-public-interest-news-foundation

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