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Labour leader to meet with striking editor

A call by a regional editor, who is currently on strike, to extend the Murdoch Parliamentary investigation to cover the regional press has been backed by MPs.

South Yorkshire Times editor Jim Oldfield is set to lose his job under proposals put forward by Johnston Press which will affect 18 jobs at South Yorkshire Newspapers.

He is due to meet with Labour leader Ed Miliband next month to discuss his calls for the commons to investigate ownership and practices in the regional press, alongside the probe into the phone-hacking scandal in national papers.

Said Jim: “I have launched a campaign to get that committee to look into the abominable oligopoly in the regional Press, in which five proprietors own some 2/3 of all the UK’s local papers. It is arguable that the local press is the real cornerstone of free speech in this country, especially given the nationals’ known political bias and in the case of the tabloids, concentration on “celeb” news.

“However, I have witnessed at Johnston Press and at least one other of these companies, a monolithic attitude of “might is right” in their cavalier dealings with a free press and indeed their own staff, which marks them out to be every bit as ruthless and poisonous as some of the worst aspects of News International.

“For this reason I am now calling for every regional journalist and activist to target their local MP over the Parliamentary recess, to press for the fullest regional/local press inquiry – either to run alongside the Murdoch investigation, or separately.

“This probe should look at the way the big companies have used relaxed competition laws to buy up hundreds of titles and ruthlessly asset-strip their staffs, and thus our profession, with nothing more than profit in mind.”

 
 

Ed Miliband, who is MP for Doncaster North, has previously written to Jim to discuss his comments on regional newspapers and the control of them. Mr Miliband has also written to Johnston Press directly about their redundancy proposals.

Jim said he particularly wants MPs to examine how Johnston Press was allowed to borrow hundreds of millions of pounds from city institutions in the years before the financial collapse of the banks.

The union claims the company owe around half a billion pounds and has embarked on savage staff cutting to save money over the past three years.

Shadow Health Secretary John Healy is the first MP to back the move for an investigation and an East Yorkshire Conservative MP has also expressed his concerns at Johnston Press office closures in his constituency. 

Mr Healy has written to the chairman and members of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee asking them to “review the current state, future prospects, local value and ownership of local and regional media.”

24 journalists at South Yorkshire Newspapers have been on stike for almost four week following a proposal by management to cut jobs, including six editorial roles.

As well as Jim’s editor job, half of his six-strong Mexborough editorial staff at the Times face the prospect of losing their jobs. Other titles affected by the cuts are the Doncaster Free Press, Selby Times and Epworth Bells.

 Johnston Press did not wish to comment.

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