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NS boss unveils seven-point plan to help local press

Fiercer copyright protection and tighter restrictions on BBC competition are among recommendations to government ministers on how they can help protect the regional newspaper industry.

The Newspaper Society, which represents the regional press, has met with Culture Secretary Maria Miller to discuss its proposals for a Royal Charter to regulate the industry.

In a follow-up letter, NS president Adrian Jeakings set out a seven-point plan for how the government can best support local papers.

Archant chief executive Adrian also highlighted the need for any new system of press regulation to avoid placing additional burdens on the industry.

The list of proposed initiatives set out in Adrian’s letter included:

  • Changes to the merger regime for regional and local newspapers.
  • Curbing BBC competition and encouraging the corporation to commission more content from the local press.
  • More use of local press advertising by government and public bodies.
  • Keeping statutory public notices in newspapers.
  • Ensuring council newspapers which compete with the local press are shut down.
  • Tighter copyright rules which prevent newspaper websites being “exploited” by content aggregators.
  • Maintaining VAT zero-rating on newspaper cover prices and extending this to news websites.

The meeting was organised as the society wanted to highlight the dangers posed by the Charter drawn up by the three main political parties in conjunction with campaign group Hacked Off, and outline to her the differences contained in the alternative Charter drafted by the press itself.

In particular, Adrian raised concerns over the proposed arbitration system – which, it is feared, could place a heavy financial burden particularly on cash-strapped regional papers.

In the letter, he states: “Thank you for seeing us last week and for your confirmation that you will reflect on the merits of our Charter application and the concerns we have expressed about the three party leaders’ proposals.

“We hope discussions can continue with your officials on the issues surrounding arbitration and a possible pilot as raised at the meeting.

“Lord Justice Leveson, as we explained, recommended that no additional burden should be placed upon regional and local newspapers and that the Government should consider implementing policies which promote and support the industry.”

It comes after a week of back-and-forth between Hacked Off and regional papers, with the lobby group accusing the Newspaper Society of misleading editors over the impact of the proposals for press regulation.

But the Society of Editors’ executive director Bob Satchwell hit back, labelling it the “height of arrogance” that the group was trying to tell editors about their own industry.