Entitled “The rise, the fall and the future of regional and local newspapers in the United Kingdom,” the lecture follows a year-long research project carried out by Neil in his role as Guardian Research Fellow.
Neil, pictured left, gave a taster of the arguments he will be developing in the talk when he gave evidence to a parliamentary committee on injunctions and privacy yesterday.
Asked whether he was frustrated by the PCC’s failure to prevent the phone-hacking scandal, he said: “I believe this been a huge diversion from what really matters in newspapers right now, and that is the financial state of the regional and local newspaper industry.
“I think you should be looking at that rather than this business.”
“Thirty to thirty-five million people touch on a local newspaper every week in the UK. The financial model has changed dramatically and these guys who work at the sharp end each day are facing the real issues, which is can their newspapers survive?
“Can there be a newspaper scrutinising local MPs, local authorities and local courts going forward? This is a big diversion because regional and local newspapers act in a certain way and nationals in another way, and this is taking away from what we should really be discussing.”
Several of the editors criticised the rise of so-called ‘conditional fee agreements,’ which they said had made it less likely that regional newspapers would be able to fight libel cases.