An Early Day Motion has been tabled by Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, who has called for a “short, sharp” inquiry to produce a coherent strategy for defending local journalism.
In the motion, Mrs Goodman states that year-on-year cuts in jobs and closure of newspaper titles have resulted in the loss of 5,000 editorial roles in local and regional press, and the closure of more than 150 newspapers since March 2011.
She cited an announcement by Johnston Press earlier this month, which told staff to expect cuts to be made in “a number of areas” across its business. The National Union of Journalists has claimed up to 100 jobs could be lost at the company as a result.
The motion states: “This House is concerned by the announcement that Johnston Press, which publishes titles including the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Lancashire Evening Post, The Scotsman and Derry Journal, is to cull almost 100 editorial posts; notes that this announcement comes just days after Newsquest announced that up to 25 journalist posts are to be axed across its Scottish titles; further notes that year-on-year cuts in jobs and closure of newspaper titles have resulted in the loss of 5,000 editorial roles in local and regional press, and the closure of more than 150 newspapers since March 2011; believes that local and regional news coverage is an essential feature of civic life and a healthy democracy; and therefore calls for active government intervention to prevent the destruction of these vital community assets and to establish a short, sharp inquiry to produce a coherent strategy for defending local journalism.”
So far, it has been signed by six other MPs – Peter Bottomley (Conservative), Mark Durkan (SDLP), Kelvin Hopkins (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru) and Christopher Stephens (SNP).
A Johnston Press spokeswoman said: “MPs will be well aware that the regional media industry continues to operate in challenging times.
“The effects of the economic downturn and changes in how readers consume local news impacts on our revenues.
“Changes such as council’s obligations to place public notices in local papers – previously a major source of revenue – have added to this pressure and, as a result, difficult decisions have to be made.”