In 2019 a group of people, ranging from lawyers to journalists, joined together with a shared belief: that organisations carrying out public benefit journalism should be given the option of obtaining charitable status.
This would be an important step in developing a new funding model to help reverse the decline in high-quality journalism in the UK, which in turn is a critical building block in a fair and democratic society. Whilst the law governing charitable journalism had been patchy, there were a few eminent voices putting forward the thoughtfully articulated case that it needed reform, such as a House of Lords’ report on The Future of Journalism and the Cairncross Review.
Nevertheless, the idea needed a champion. The group therefore decided to establish a vehicle: The Public Benefit Journalism Research Centre (later renamed as the Charitable Journalism Project).
They obtained seed funding from generous donors. The aim was to register their organisation as a charity with charitable objects, which sought to explore the idea of charitable journalism. It would then produce content that explored this cause (whilst remaining within the restrictions under existing charity law).
If necessary, the entity might seek to register a charitable journalism charity itself, using the content it had produced to show the Charity Commission why it was appropriate to do so.
In the meantime, other actors began to lean in, including the Public Interest News Foundation, which also sought charitable status. This meant that, at the same time, the Charity Commission was dealing with both our application for charitable status (in which we strongly argued for the merits of public benefit journalism being recognised as a charitable object) and an application from an organisation which more directly sought to enable public benefit journalism.
Happily, both applications were successful, and, jump-started by their success, Full Fact (which itself produces content, checking the factual accuracy of publicly available information, for example in political speeches) then applied for and was recognised as a charity.
The CJP is proud of the role it has played in overcoming the Charity Commission’s initial resistance to recognising charitable journalism and in paving the way for public benefit journalism to be recognised as charitable in law.
Now, public benefit journalism can be furthered through the world of charity. However, the CJP’s work is not done. It will continue to use its expertise and influence to develop this space further, through research and carefully planned action.