The president of the Newspaper Society is demanding a meeting with deputy premier Nick Clegg after he branded the press as “desperate animals.”
Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg told a party conference gathering last week that he is ready to support a new system of statutory newspaper regulation in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.
He went on to describe the written press as “animals around a disappearing waterhole” who were “becoming more desperate” as circulations declined.
Now NS president Adrian Jeakings has written to the deputy prime minister voicing concern at the comments and requesting a meeting with him.
Wrote Adrian: “As president of the Newspaper Society, I feel compelled to write to you about our concerns over the highly damaging and generalised remarks you made this week, in describing the press as “desperate animals around a disappearing waterhole” and questioning the very future of our industry.
“Our industry employs 30,000 people including nearly 10,000 journalists. Despite what you say, I am quite sure we will continue to fulfil our unique vital role for the local communities we serve for many years to come.
“We will also continue to do that free of any direct public subsidy and will fiercely defend the independence of the UK press as a whole from any form or political or statutory controls.
“We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to brief you on the current state of play for the local press and explain some of the challenges, but also the reasons for our confidence in the future of our sector, which after all represents the vast majority of UK newspapers.”
Adrian also reminded Mr Clegg of previous remarks he made in a speech to the Newspaper Conference last year.
On that occasion he said: “The underlying strength of your newspapers seems to be growing rather than diminishing. You’ve got more readers and crucially you have rates of trust in what you produce which is the envy of many other parts of the media.”
Mr Clegg told last week’s gathering that the government should fully accept the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards as long as they were “proportionate”.
He said the test for the new regulatory regime was whether it would meet the concerns of victims of phone hacking.