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Publishers win 'Commons vote' on council papers

Newspaper bosses won a vote in the House of Commons this week over whether council newspapers constituted a threat to democracy.

However the vote took place not on the floor of the House, but at a debating society that meets regularly at the Palace of Westminster.

The Debating Group has been holding topical debates in Commons Committee Room 14 since 1975.

This week’s debate centred on the motion: “This house believes that the spread of council “newspapers” will undermine local democracy.”

Those taking part included Howard Scott, managing director of Newsquest South and West London who proposed the motion.

He was supported by Brian Doel, managing director of Tindle Newspapers.

Mr Scott said: “The cynical attempts by some authorities to control and manipulate public thinking and debate via these official mouthpieces is something which should concern anyone who treasures our democratic processes.

“If they are allowed to continue and spread, then local democracy is damaged and our lives will be the poorer for it.”

The motion was opposed by Alex Aiken, a former Tory chief press officer who once wrestled a Daily Mirror journalist dressed as a chicken to the ground during an election campaign.

Mr Aiken, now head of communicatons at Westminster City Council, said “arrogant” newspapers had lost touch with their readers and had failed to adapt to changing advertising markets, with more adverts going online.

Despite Mr Aiken’s efforts, the motion was overwhelmingly passed on a show of hands.

The new coalition government has pledged to introduce tough curbs on council newspapers to stop them competing for advertising with the local press.


outofit (17/06/2010 09:43:09)
Newspaper bosses fighting to save their papers and local democracy? There’s a first. How they can complain when they’re doing exactly the same – only more efficiently! – I don’t know.
Methinks they’re more concerned about profits than democracy.