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Council newspapers 'not rivals' to local press

Council bosses have hit back at claims that their in-house publications are “rivals” to local newspapers.

The Newspaper Society wants the Government to introduce curbs on council newspapers and magazines as part of the ongoing review of the local media being carried out by the Office of Fair Trading.

But in its own submission to the OFT review, the Local Government Association says the typical council newspaper was published no more than six times a year and was not designed to supplant local newspapers.

In an exclusive interview with the Scarborough Evening News last month, culture secretary Andy Burnham MP said the issue of council newspapers was at the top of his in-tray.

The LGA, which represents over 400 councils in England and Wales, says it supports local press and claims most authorities would prefer more journalistic scrutiny.

It said: “The LGA supports a successful and vibrant local media.

“Local authorities do not typically operate their own magazines in order to supplant the operations of the local media. A typical council publication is distributed four or six times a year, and does not operate as a rival or alternative to the local press.

“The growth of the internet has had a far bigger impact than council newspapers. Most councils would actually prefer more journalistic scrutiny, and do not like to see the press table empty at council meetings.”

The LGA went on to say that local media could not provide the same amount of information about a council’s services compared with their own dedicated publications.

It added that “every local authority wants to support local businesses and local jobs” but had a responsibility to tax payers.

“The revenue councils receive from advertising in their publications helps offset the costs of printing, producing and posting them,” it said.

“It should also be noted that local authorities spend substantial sums of money advertising in the local media.”

  • Visit the LGA website to read the full submission.
  • Comments

    malcolm starbrook (09/04/2009 15:04:08)
    I was interested by the LGA comments concerning the non-threat to regional papers that is coming from local authorities in the UK. Here in Tower Hamlets we have been battling a council-run newspaper that is threatening the future of the 122 year-old East London Advertiser.
    When the weekly East End Life comes through the letterboxes of homes in Tower Hamlets it looks like any other free local newspaper. In fact, the paper is produced by Tower Hamlets Council. It is run as a commercial enterprise that generates an annual revenue of £952,000 and incurs a loss of at least £250,000 based on the most recent published accounts.
    East End Life blends hard news with council stories in an uncritical way and provides an unblemished gloss on what is happening in the council. It wastes council taxpayers’ money on things that are not central to any local authority’s objectives; it covers TV listings and restaurant reviews and pays news agencies for criminal court reports. The council sees this as a way of getting an uncritical message out to the electorate.
    The council shouldn’t be producing newspapers. Instead it should be in the business of producing high-quality public services.
    East End Life is not operating as equal competition; it is heavily subsidised and has hardly any financial constraints. You have a newspaper that doesn’t have a profit and loss statement nor publicly audited liability.
    Increasingly it is being held up as a template for other authorities to adopt.
    The lack of understanding by the LGA displays a frightening naivete that illustrates why local government officials should stick to improving services to taxpayers and leave publishers to get on with the business of publishing

    J (09/04/2009 16:13:49)
    Never understood how council propoganda is part of public service, funded by the public.