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MP calls for local papers to be protected from closure

An MP has called for local papers to be given protected status as “community assets” to protect them from being closed without exploring the possibility of new ownership.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who represents Carmarthenshire, called on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to allow newspapers to be categorised in such a way under the Localism Act 2011, so owners cannot close them overnight.

This would mean a consultation on the paper’s future could be held, allowing potential new owners time to bid for the paper.

The MP said newspapers have a unique position in their communities but expressed concern they were increasingly under threat.

Mr Edwards said: “Welsh newspapers are a treasured part of our heritage, reflecting a mix of local news, views and sports coverage. They are a place where many excellent journalists work and become part of their communities.

“However they are increasingly under threat as part of a wider shift in readership habits and, sometimes, poor management. The Localism Act created a form of ‘community assets’ which could not be sold off without consultation.

“If local papers could be included in this definition then it would recognise their local importance and prevent owners from closing down newspapers overnight and give time for new owners to come in, perhaps including a takeover by the local community.

“As the powers for this are in Westminster, I have pushed the Secretary of State to expand the category of ‘community assets’ to include local newspapers and allow the Welsh Government to be able to do this to save any newspapers in Wales which come under threat.”