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Paper’s negative story leads to council pulling ad

A council has come under fire for withdrawing advertising from a weekly newspaper in protest at a story it did not like.

Carmarthenshire County Council pulled advertising from the South Wales Guardian in response to an article where traders raised concerns about possible delays to a regeneration scheme for Ammanford town centre.

Following the publication of the story, the council’s press manager emailed the authority’s marketing department saying that the paper had not been supportive of the town centre and stating adverts should not be placed until the issue was resolved.

The move has been criticised by NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, along with Jonathan Edwards MP and Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM – who wrote a joint letter of objection to council leader Kevin Madge.

Michelle said: “It is wholly unacceptable for a local authority or any other public body to withdraw advertising from a newspaper as a reaction to what it sees as negative publicity about itself.

“The freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy and one of the most important roles of the NUJ is to defend that principle.

“Attempting to suppress healthy public debate is no business of a local authority and I hope Carmarthenshire County Council will recognise its mistake and give a firm undertaking not to act in this way again.”

The story published in the Newsquest title earlier this month was headlined “Christmas is cancelled?” and reported from a meeting where traders raised concerns that roadworks could overrun into Christmas and ruin festivities.

In response, the council’s press manager emailed its marketing department saying: “Due to the continuing negative publicity by the Guardian and the concerns expressed by all those present at the Ammanford town centre steering group held this week, I do not think we should be placing adverts with them until this issue is resolved, as the group felt the Guardian was not supportive of the town centre which they should be as a local paper.”

Chris Burns, the council’s assistant chief executive, said: “The intention was to meet with the editor to discuss concerns that had been raised in the Ammanford Town Centre management meeting regarding a front page story in the Guardian.

“In the meantime one single advertisement was temporarily put on hold. We spend quite a lot with the Guardian and there is no intention to stop this advertising.”

It is understood the situation has now been resolved between the paper and the council.

No one from Newsquest has yet responded to requests for a comment.


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  • July 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Very worrying when council officers start behaving like this.
    And it usually reflects very badly on them too.

    Some councils really do adopt a “we know best” attitude, ignoring public opinion.

    It worries me that some newspaper accountants might start to get nervous and cave into these jobsworths.
    I’ve certainly seen evidence of it at one independent I worked for.

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  • July 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Blackmail, pure and simple. Appalling that a council can behave like this.

    However, how many times do we see on HTFP that a newspaper company hasn’t yet commented? For an industry which relies on people giving comments, we seem to be incredibly bad at it ourselves. It’s slightly more understandable when it’s a negative story, but in this case Newsquest hasn’t put a foot wrong. Sort it out!

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  • July 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Why does a local council even HAVE a “press manager”?

    I thought we were in the age of austerity, with a vice-like squeeze inflicted on the the public sector purse.

    You have to question why, when thousands of police officers, soldiers, nurses and teachers are facing redundancy, councils can still lash out taxpayers’ cash on spin-doctors.

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  • July 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I guarantee the paper will run a soft story from the council saying all is well and someone high up in management will suggest a partnership to work “for the best future of the town centre”.

    Money always wins in the end. Council ads is a massive revenue stream for local papers

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