The local media sector has been plagued by thousands of redundancies and closures of local papers and small radio stations in recent months. Yesterday, Newsquest owner Gannett revealed that its ad revenues fell by almost 40% in the first quarter of 2009.
This followed a warning from a key government-commissioned report into the future of radio, by former GMG chief executive John Myers, that up to 50 local radio stations could close over the next 18 months as a result of economic pressures.
Speaking at today's Digital Britain Summit in London, Burnham said the Government believed in the importance of "quality, trusted [local] content" and added: "l see local media as a touchstone for all that is good - local press, local radio - these are vital parts."
But he conceded that local media was feeling "the full force of the global downturn", and that it was clear "continual cost cutting is not the answer", and, "we need to find innovate solutions."
He did not detail specific solutions for the local media sector, but noted areas such as training and apprenticeships and various partnerships figured in his thinking.
Burnham has previously indicated the Government is unlikely to provide direct or indirect financial assistance to bail out the local media sector. However, he has signalled it is looking at a package of measures, such as possible changes to media merger rules.
Today, without detailing specific measures, he said it was time to "provide structural support" that other industries have benefited from, so that the creative content sector could "move from the margins to the centre of industry".
The summit is being held to inform Communications Minister Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, which, among other things, is formulating future policy for public service broadcasting and digital radio. Lord Carter's report will be published in the summer.