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Pickles pledges law to curb council freesheets

The government has confirmed it will introduce legislation to ban councils from publishing newspapers which actively compete with the local press.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles had previously introduced a voluntary code aimed at curbing what he has branded “town hall Pravdas.”

But some councils have continued to flout the code, which aimed to restrict council papers to publishing four times a year.

Mr Pickles has now reaffirmed plans to give the code the force of law with a bill to be introduced in the next session of Parliament.

Speaking to regional press political editors and lobby correspondents at a lunch in Westminster last week, Mr Pickles said the bill would aim to stop what he called “a bunch of hard core authorities” who continued to publish council newspapers in competition with the local press.

“We need an independent voice,” Mr Pickles told the Newspaper Conference lunch.

The minister also promised to make it harder for senior council officers to bring libel actions against newspapers.

He accused an “untouchable elite” of council officers of abusing their positions to “stymie people and intimidate them when they’re asking legitimate questions.”

Mr Pickles said: “We will be changing the law to ensure that if the council is going use its financial resources to initiate a defamation process, they will have to take it to full council to vote on it.”


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  • December 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Fact: some council publications carry useful information. It’s not me saying this, I’m merely repeating what former newspaper readers tell me. I hope Pickles is not just clearing the way for a handful of regional newspaper barons to dominate the market. A free press means a diverse press so that journalists don’t come under management pressure to follow the party line.

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  • December 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    What about papers which include pages handed over to the local authority and which usually contain self-serving tosh? This happens with publications in the Fens. It is no more than page filler but almost always shows the authority in a favourable light.

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