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Get a move on, industry leaders tell Pickles

The Newspaper Society has urged ministers to speed up plans for a legal clampdown on council publications.

The industry body has welcomed plans by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to give the force of law to the existing voluntary Code of Practice which aims to restrict council papers to publishing four times a year.

But it has called for a meeting with Mr Pickles to discuss the plans in which it will highlight concerns the Code may not be enforced for another two years.

In a letter to him this week, NS communications and marketing director Lynne Anderson said advertising in some of the most competitive council newspapers was damaging local papers and must be stopped “as a matter of urgency”.

Her letter said: “We are concerned, given the well-publicised challenges facing independent commercial local newspapers in the midst of a crippling advertising recession, that many of the most aggressively competitive council newspapers have been allowed to continue unchecked, and that compliance with the Code may not be enforced for another two years.”

The letter said work to introduce the legislation by Mr Pickles would not start until May next year and was not expected to come into force until April 2014.

It continues: “Council newspapers and increasingly their websites compete with independent local newspapers for private and public sector advertising, the lifeblood of independent local newspapers in their areas.

“By doing this, local authorities are siphoning off the primary source of revenue which enables independent local journalism to hold authorities to account on behalf of local people. It is vital that this unfair competition, which causes real damage to local newspapers, be stopped as a matter of urgency.

“We would like to arrange a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss the Government’s plans to ensure compliance with the Code, the timetable for implementation, the likely effectiveness of any new legislation, and ensuring this covers not just printed publications but all types of media including websites and broadcast platforms.”

Communities secretary Eric Pickles originally launched a crackdown on so-called ‘Town Hall Pravdas’ shortly after the Coalition government came to power in 2010.

But some local authorities have continued to flout his voluntary Code which aims to restrict free council publications to four a year and says they should not resemble newspapers in style and content.

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  • July 5, 2012 at 10:16 am

    It’ll take an eternity before anything actually happens. Eric Pickles is a friend of the Press but the wheels of Government are as useless as my old Fiat.

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