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Advertising victory for local press as council suspends title amid court fight

A council fighting to retain its fortnightly newsletter in defiance of government rules has suspended publication of the title and confirmed statutory notices will now only be published in the local press.

Hackney Council has suspended publication of its Hackney Today newsletter, and replaced it with a new title called Hackney Life which it says will provide “information, not news.”

The authority had previously lodged an application with the Court of Appeal after a High Court order that it ceased fortnightly publication of Hackney Today.

The council had previously ignored demands by the Communities Secretary that it should run the freesheet no more than quarterly, in line with government guidelines.

Hackney Life

The authority has refused to confirm to the borough’s local democracy reporter Ed Sheridan how frequently Hackney Life will be published, or whether Hackney Today has been suspended temporarily or permanently.

But is has confirmed it won’t be using the new title for statutory notice which will now be published in the local press.

An editorial in Hackney Life reads: “To try to ensure that as many people as possible continue to be aware of the events, opportunities and services available to them in Hackney, we are publishing Hackney Life.

“In accordance with the government’s direction, it will focus on providing information, not news, and statutory notices are now being published in the local press.”

Hackney Gazette editor Ramzy Alwakeel and Hackney Citizen editor Keith Magnum have both weclomed the move.

Said Ramzy: “I believe the existence of a fortnightly council freesheet in 2019 is a significant obstruction to genuine local newspapers – not just by taking away advertising but perhaps more significantly by fooling time-pressed readers into thinking they’ve already had their local news and therefore don’t need to pick up the Gazette or the Citizen.

“I welcome the decision by Hackney Council to suspend publication of Hackney Today while it considers its position, but I’m disappointed that this turn of events needed the intervention of the government, which is obviously not an ally we would ever choose.

“Despite the existence of Hackney Today, the Mayor of Hackney has been a vocal champion of the Gazette and Citizen. I share, and am encouraged by, his oft-stated belief that a thriving local press is essential to a healthy democracy.

“I am confident that both Hackney’s local papers will now prove more than adequate for the council to get its own messages to the public, while continuing to fulfil the vital function that Hackney Today could not: that of holding the Town Hall to account.”

Added Keith: “It would be remarkable if central government decided to deliver door to door a fortnightly newspaper full of positive stories to all UK residents.

“It is also remarkable that a local council should continue its efforts to do the equivalent – at taxpayers’ expense and, as Mrs Justice Andrews pointed out, to do this to the detriment of the local press.

“Regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming appeal in defence of the council’s freesheet, the Hackney Citizen will continue to report as thoroughly as possible on council matters in the interests of local democracy.”

A Hackney council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the council has lodged an appeal and a stay application to the Court of Appeal.

“We will consider our options after the Court of Appeal has heard our applications and provided us with an outcome.”

Ed has previouslyreported the council has so far incurred £33,281 in legal costs fighting for the right to publish its newspaper fortnightly.


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  • July 26, 2019 at 6:53 am

    There is a problem here. Up and down the country, the traditional media is disappearing. Local means anything up to 30 miles away. And those papers that exist only do so to hold on to council advertising, at inflated rates. The councils didn’t destroy the local press, too often that was the companies that owned them. From a virtual monopoly they got lazy and greedy and when Google came along yesterday’s news men weren’t ready. Today, just look at what passes for news on a local website.

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  • July 26, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    What is “traditional” media? Eight-page 19th century broadsheets? The ‘Daily Sketch’? The ‘Picture Post’? Let’s talk about today’s media. Recent ‘hyperlocals’ are typically locally-based and locally-owned and they are aware of what is going on. They have feet on the (local!) ground and generally cover local issues. Most have been launched in the last 25 years, but some go back to the 19th century. As to Percy’s comment that “papers that exist only do so to hold on to council advertising, at inflated rates”, all I can say is that the titles I edit charge the same for public notices and council advertising as they do for any other commercial advert of the same size. We don’t rip people off. Why would we? In any case, council advertising is less than 5% of our revenue, so it really doesn’t matter, in terms of viability.

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