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Government to stage summit on future of local media

The Government is to call a summit on the future of the regional media following pressure from union leaders.

Junior culture minister Barbara Follett made the announcement in the course of a debate on the state of the local press in the House of Commons yesterday.

She told the House that culture secretary Andy Burnham had agreed the move, which had been put forward by the National Union of Journalists at a meeting with him the day before.

Ms Follett said: “He agreed that the Government would host a conference bringing together all the interested parties — the National Union of Journalists, the Society of Editors, the Newspaper Society, local media, MPs and local and regional bodies—for a broad discussion of the issues affecting local media and potential new business models. That conference will take place as soon as possible.”

The idea had been put forward to Mr Burnham by Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting was also attended by a number of MPs who are part of the NUJ’s parliamentary group, including the former Labour leadership contender John McDonnell.

He said afterwards: “I am really glad that the Government has embraced our idea and acted so quickly. We look forward to taking part in the summit.”

Mr Dear added: “The meeting with Andy Burnham was very constructive and I am delighted that our suggestion has been picked up so quickly.

“Journalists on regional papers, TV, radio and websites are losing their jobs every day. Papers are closing, local offices are being boarded up.

“The Government summit must involve journalists, media owners and community and co-operative groups. It must actively consider all options for the future of local media.”

During the meeting, Mr Burnham told the NUJ represenatives that he valued the role his local papers – the Leigh Journal and the Leigh Reporter – play in holding the community together.

More than 70 MPs have so far signed an early day motion – a parliamentary petition – backing the union’s concerns about the state of regional journalism.