Industry leaders are set for a fresh clash with ministers over public notices in newspapers, this time over alcohol licences.
Ministers want to withdraw the current requirement for applications for alcohol licence to be published in local newspapers.
But the Newspaper Society is set to fight the plans which according to Home Office estimates could cost the local press industry between £6.2m and £7.9m a year.
The latest row follows earlier clashes over proposals to scrap the requirement to advertise planning notices and roadworks in local newsapers, both of which were successfully fought off by the NS.
The government’s latest plans are contained in a Home Office consultation entitled ‘Delivering the Government’s policies to cut alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour.’
The NS believes the proposals constitute a serois threat to the public’s right to know, with local licensing matters being decided in secret.
It said: “The proposal to remove the obligation to place licensing application and variation notices in local newspapers must be rejected. They have nothing to do with the Government’s aims of cutting alcohol-fuelled crime and antisocial behaviour.
“Enabling the whole community – not just the immediate “neighbours” of a venue to be as informed as possible about new licences and about applications for variations, usually increased opening hours, is itself a vital tool in those aims by enabling the community to raise concerns directly relating to these issues.
“The role of statutory notices such as licensing applications is as valid today as when they were originally introduced: to ensure that important information which can have a real impact on community life is publicised as widely as possible.
“The Government cannot seriously be advocating a measure simply to save the alcohol industry a one-off cost, at the expense of local residents’ right to be informed and comment upon issues which directly impact on the very areas the Government professes to be concerned about – alcohol-fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour.”
Following a campaign by the NS and regional press publishers, the government rejected proposals to remove the requirement on local authorities to publish planning notices in local newspapers.
Then earlier this year the Welsh Assembly rejected similar proposals in relation to traffic notices, acknowledging that the plans would have left portions of the general public “disenfranchised” if enacted.