Newspaper entrepreneur Sir Ray Tindle has claimed local newspapers still have a “long future” as he marked the 150th anniversary of one of his flagship titles.
A lunch was held yesterday on HMS Belfast to mark 150 years since the launch of the South London Press.
Sir Ray used the occasion to deliver an upbeat message about the industry’s future in the presence of culture secretary John Whittingdale and guest of honour the Countess of Wessex.
In his speech, Sir Ray highlighted advertising guru Sir Martin Sorrell’s recent comments about the high levels of engagement with printed newspapers as evidence that local newspapers “have a long future ahead.”
He told the luncbh: “Local communities want their own local newspaper. Local communities will always have their own local newspaper.
“Local democracy demands it. With journalists and newspaper men and newspaper women like these, be assured that local papers will survive.
“Only a few days ago the chief of the biggest advertising agency in the country, Sir Martin Sorrell, said recent research had shown that readers were more likely to retain information gained from newspapers than information conveyed in other forms.
“This is one more good reason to be sure newspapers have a long future ahead.”
Also speaking at the lunch, Mr Whittingdale sought to reassure the industry about the proposed partnership between the BBC and local newspapers.
The BBC has suggested setting up a pool of “public service journalists” who would share their content with local newspapers, but the culture secretary appeared to give this the thumbs down.
He said: “What I’ve been talking to the BBC about is the way in which, rather than taking journalistic content and not acknowledging it, instead they can commission it and buy it in.
“And I’m very clear that can help local newspapers and it can help support them but I’m also clear that it does need to be an initiative which is designed to support local newspapers, not undermine them, and that means it shouldn’t be done by the BBC, there should be a means by which they look to have local providers which will probably be local newspapers because you are so closely embedded in your local communities.”
Mr Whittingdale also paid tribute to the South London Press as a “shining example of all that is best about local newspapers”.
He added: “In my view, local newspapers are absolutely essential to the country and to the democracy of our life here. How else are local people able to make a judgement about the performance of their elected representatives and their local institutions, except through the local press?”