The future of local newspapers is set to take centre stage at the Trade Union Congress next week with calls for them to be treated in the same way as closure-threatened pubs.
A motion calling for a government-commissioned inquiry into the “crisis” engulfing the British regional press has been tabled by the National Union of Journalists.
The union believes it’s time the under-siege dailies – all of which recorded circulation falls for the second successive six-month period in the ABC figures published last week – were given“protected status.”
The NUJ has won debating time – on either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of the TUC conference in Liverpool – to discuss utilising government legislation to treats newspapers in the same way as closure-threatened village shops, pubs, cinemas and libraries.
It wants the Localism Act 2012 to be used in the regional press industry in the same way local councils now determine “community assets” within their communities.
Like health and education, providing reliable and informative local news is a public service and communities need newspapers, says the NUJ.
At the moment newspaper owners can shut down a publication and keep hold of the title – leaving long-established publications at the mercy of media groups. As it is, a quarter of the UK no longer has a regional daily to call its own.
The union is pushing for the opportunity for under-threat local papers to have a six-month breather to enable other interested parties to make a bid for a publication which, at the moment, is shut down at a moment’s notice – without any referral process.
Delegates are hoping that the debate will be moved on to a UK-wide plane – where the matter is raised with all four parliaments and assemblies.
In Wales new co-operative newspaper models are in place. NUJ members have helped set up new titles based on novel models of ownership. Some have been sole proprietors filling a news gap where titles have been closed – such as the Caerphilly Observer.
The Port Talbot MagNet is an NUJ initiative which has established a members’ not-for-profit co-op. It has established an online and print presence to help plug the gap caused by title closures.