Media minister Ed Vaizey today offered to set up a meeting for MPs to quiz Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield over his plans to move five daily titles to weekly publication.
On the day JP published its annual results and Mr Highfield set out his plans in further detail, MPs staged a half-hour debate on the future of local newspapers.
The debate was called by Corby MP Louise Mensch, whose local paper the Northants Evening Telegraph is among the five dailies to go weekly next month.
She accused Mr Highfield of insulting the town’s residents by suggesting that an iPad app could take the place of its daily newspaper.
Ms Mensch told the House: “We were unbelievably insulted to be told that Corby Evening Telegraph would be replaced by an iPad app.”
The Tory MP has previously Tweeted: “Lots of Corby folk can’t afford iPads to use an app. I will seek a meeting w Johnston Press to ask if they’ve got this one right.”
In response to the point, Mr Vaizey offered to set up a meeting with Mr Highfield which all MPs whose newspapers are affected by the proposals could attend.
He said: “I have called the managing director of Johnston Press and I hope I will have a meeting with him, simply for me to hear what his strategy is.
“Ashley Highfield is somebody I knew at the BBC and Microsoft and I know he has been hired by Johnston Press because of an explicit recognition that we are moving into a digital age.”
Earlier Ms Mensch repeated her calls for indirect subsidies for local newspapers, saying the government was already doing this for its proposed network of local TV stations by top-slicing the BBC licence fee.
Mr Vaizey made no direct response to the suggestion, but claimed local TV would “complement” the local press.
Ms Mensch also backed the Newspaper Society’s campaign to halt government plans to allow councils to advertise roadworks on their websites rather than in the local press.
In reply Mr Vaizey said a consultation on the issue had now concluded and ministers were considering the next steps.