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Regional press action plan sent to ministers

The Government is being asked to help pay the training costs associated with the move to multimedia journalism as part of an action plan to help the regional press withstand the economic downturn.

The Society of Editors and the Newspaper Society met with culture secretary Andy Burnham last week to discuss ways of helping the industry.

Now the two leading industry bodies have sent Mr Burnham a series of action points setting out possible ways in which the Government can support regional publishers.

As well as help with training costs, they also want to see search engines such as Google compensating local news providers for generating the material from which they are able to profit.

The action plan calls on the Government to:

  • Issue guidance to local authorities to discourage them from launching publications and websites that compete directly with and undermine local papers.
  • Encourage local and national government to advertise public sector jobs and services in local papers and their websites.
  • Remove the threat of relaxation of obligations on local authorities to advertise public notices in local newspapers.
  • Explore ways in which Google and others could be prevented from profiting from third party content without recompense to or consent from those who generated the material.
  • Invest public funds for training directly with media companies and the industry’s main training organisation, the NCTJ, thereby encouraging training for multi-platform news delivery.
  • In addition, ministers are already discussing relaxing controls over regional and local newspaper mergers, transfers and cross-media ownership, which both the NS and SoE have urged.

    Nigel Pickover, president of the Society of Editors and editor of the Evening Star, Ipswich, said: “We are pleased that the Secretary of State is concerned about the special problems of the regional press and these ideas could have a direct and speedy effect on local and regional papers and therefore on local communities and democracy.

    “The industry is not asking for special treatment but rather for government action to help ensure there is a level playing field in a rapidly changing media market place. The problem is serious and urgent.”