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Where public interest and public benefit meet: the application of charity law to journalism

A Research Paper by Steven Barnett, Tom Murdoch and Judith Townend, published by Journal of Media Law

Under-investment in public service journalism has led to growing interest in the possibility of philanthropic support for the sector. Though long associated with non-profit journalism in North America, there is little tradition of philanthropy in UK journalism. This paper explains how recognition of public interest journalism as charitable can be achieved through more constructive interpretations of the existing law. Despite its initially conservative response, the Charity Commission has recently taken important steps towards recognising defined forms of journalism as charitable under the existing law. This paper reviews the democratic imperatives fulfilled by public interest journalism which justify such developments; and seeks to demonstrate how this framework for defining public interest journalism aligns with the public benefit requirement in charity law, opening up the possibility of new forms of charitably funded ‘public benefit journalism’.

Steven Barnett


Steven Barnett is Professor of Communications and an established writer and broadcaster who has been involved in policy analysis at the highest levels, both nationally and internationally, for the last 35 years. He has advised government ministers in the UK, has given evidence or served as an adviser on several parliamentary committees, has been called to give evidence to the European Parliament, and has been invited as keynote speaker at numerous national and international conferences.


16 November 2022
Published By
Journal of Media Law
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