A bid to halt government proposals to remove the requirement on councils to advertise road works in local papers has received backing from MPs.
The Newspaper Society has requested a meeting with Transport minister Norman Baker to discuss the proposal which it fears will damage the industry.
Traffic orders – public notices advertising road works or other traffic restrictions – are worth around £20m a year to the local press.
However ministers are keen to allow local authorities to advertise them on their own websites to save money.
NS communications and marketing director Lynne Anderson has written to transport minister Norman Baker asking for a meeting about the plan.
“The NS believes that removing the mandatory requirement for local authorities to publish statutory notices such as traffic orders in newspapers is likely to lead to a more secretive, less open government,” she wrote.
“If this proposal came into effect, not only would councils be encouraged to rely on cheaper but less effective information channels, undermining the public’s right to know, such a move would further damage the local media industry, cutting off an important revenue stream at a critical time when it is tackling some of the worst commercial conditions in memory.”
The NS has won support for its stance from MPs of both main parties.
Stephen Phillips, Tory MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, said: “I don’t think it’s a very good idea. In a patch like mine, many elderly people get their information only from the local press – they don’t have internet access and would not necessarily search for the information which local authorities currently have to publish anyway.”
Fellow Tory Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire, said: “I do think advertising in local newspapers is the appropriate way forward and this should override any question of cost.”
Labour’s Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax, said it was “essential to consider that not everyone has access to local council and Government websites and therefore often rely on the local press for information on such issues.”
And Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, said the local press was “absolutely essential for local democracy and is an invaluable part of any local community.”