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Curb town hall papers as matter of urgency says NS

Industry leaders are seeking talks with the new communities secretary over the government’s promise of tough curbs on council newspapers.

The Newspaper Society has asked for a meeting with Eric Pickles to flesh out details of how the Lib-Con coalition plans to implement the pledge.

In its policy document published last week, the coalition said it would “impose tougher rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers.”

In the letter, NS communications director Lynne Anderson urged Mr Pickles to introduce the new curbs as a matter of urgency.

Said Lynne: “We would like to…..discuss the steps the government plans to take, the type of rules, their likely effectiveness and how quickly these will be imposed, to help ensure that this unfair competition, which has been allowed to develop unchecked and continues to cause real damage to independent local newspapers across the country, can be stopped.

“Recent research has shown that the vast majority of people in the UK rely on their local paper to keep them informed about local council plans and decisions and to allow them to make their voice heard on important issues which affect them.

“We hope that all local authorities will therefore be encouraged to use the local media, which remains the best-read and most trusted source of local news and information, rather than undermining it by setting up rival publications and websites aimed at controlling media coverage of council activities and diverting advertising away from local papers and their websites.

“We would welcome a meeting with you to discuss the problem and to hear about the specific steps the Government now plans to take to deal with this issue which is wasting taxpayers’ money and undermining a free local press.”


Peter Kerr (27/05/2010 14:27:23)
Don’t lots of regional newspapers make money from printing these publications?

Watching with interest (27/05/2010 14:51:01)
Yup – Trinity Mirror in the Midlands used to print Birmingham City Council’s but when the contract ran out the council decided to postpone its publication. In a perverse way, that city council pravda was helping to keep journos in work!! Bonkers!

chris conal (28/05/2010 13:47:39)
Yes it is very true that almost all the council magazines and papers are printed by the big newspaper groups, Trinity Mirror, Harmsworth & Newsquest etc, in fact they actively seek thiir business. Does Lynne Anderson really think that the revenues and circulations of 1200+ commercial local papers will suddenly rise by stopping about 10 out of 480 local council selling advertising in their weekly or fortnightly papers? I have seen no firm factual evidence that a council run newspaper has put a private paper out of business – they have been doing that to themselves for years through cost-cutting and more!

Billy Hamilton (28/05/2010 14:26:34)
The idea that council newspapers are to blame for the parlous state of newspapers is completely bogus. I worked in regional newspapers for about 10 years and watched them all flush themselves down a toilet. In all cases they shoved out experienced (and hence better paid) staff and replaced them with trainees who did not have anyone around to tell them what to do. They put all their content on-line for free because everyone else was doing it, stopped going to the courts and council meetings, stripped back their picture desks, got rid of libraries and their staff, spent money on expensive video equipment and built lavish ‘editing suites’ that were never used, centralised subbing to places and people that knew little about their patches and put share dividens above the quality of their products. All of that happened before the proliferation of council newspapers and it is the reason why they have been suffereing for some years.

Mark Holman (01/06/2010 10:05:40)
Local councils have a statatory right to inform residents of all it activities. The most effective way is through these magazines. In Southampton we aim to reduce the cost of the communication to the tax payer by 50% by working with local businesses to advertise their businesses.
“Most Trusted”?! Check the research! In my experince of local press and council publications this is just the NS not liking competition as small as it is.