Nesta, the global innovation foundation, today announces the innovative ideas that will receive funding through the Future News Pilot Fund. The fund, run by Nesta and funded by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is a direct recommendation from the Cairncross Review. The Review aimed to give tangible responses to the challenges in the declining public interest news sector.

The pilot fund received 178 applications from a diverse range of organisations, from local and national newsrooms to technology startups. The programme, which begins today, will see the winners of this round test and prototype a variety of ideas over the coming five months. 3 companies with South West bases have been selected:

  • Bristol Cable will work with people from disadvantaged and minority ethnic communities to understand the barriers they face when accessing news and opportunities for them to be involved in shaping their content. They are also working to design an app which will allow community members to feed stories into local news production. 
  • Axate allows users to make micropayments for news content. They want to support local news organisations to become more financially sustainable using a 90-day programme to help local news organisations to build a business model using the Axate payment wallet.
  • Tortoise Local will be testing a new engagement model in Grimsby and Plymouth to raise interest and engagement in public interest news. 

Previously released Nesta research found that communities that tend to have higher levels of unemployment and lower levels of education are particularly affected by a decline in journalistic activity and this can often play out in a North/South divide. It’s important that any future plans recognise where these communities are and provide additional support or resources to them. 

Nesta will be sharing lessons learned from the fund to help government and the wider media sector find pathways to a future where everyone across the country has equal and high-quality access to public interest news.

Valerie Mocker, Director of the Future News Fund Pilot Fund at Nesta, said: “Public interest news is such a vital part of our democratic immune system, so it’s important we ensure it is fit for the future and for everyone. The 17 innovators we are funding are trying to transform the system, challenging how we engage audiences in the news process and trying out new models for financial sustainability. 

“We are excited to work closely with the innovators to develop their ideas and importantly, to share these learnings with the wider news sector. This pilot is only a first step but an important one towards reviving public interest news for everyone across the country.”

Paul Miller, Managing Partner and CEO of Bethnal Green Ventures, said: “We’re excited to kick off the programme today and support the nine ventures over the coming months. Now more than ever we need new approaches to public interest news and find sustainable models for journalism in the UK.”