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Newsrooms threaten to boycott Tory Conference over fees

ToryNewsrooms across the country have threatened to boycott the Conservative Party Conference in a row over fees affecting regional political journalists.

National, regional and international newsrooms are refusing to sign up to the Tories’ Autumn Conference following the decision by the party to implement a fee for reporting on the event.

Organisations including the News Media Association, Society of Editors, News Media Coalition and Foreign Press Association have joined forces to protest against the fee, charged at £137 for each journalist’s application.

The decision by newsrooms to withhold booking for the event is also being supported by the Press Gallery of Westminster political correspondents.

In a joint statement, the coalition of industry bodies said: “For more than a year, we have been seeking discussion with the Conservative Party to review these charges, as promised.

“This was to find an alternative solution to supposed concerns which the party seeks to address by charging the media for attendance – a decision which we are united in viewing as undemocratic and detrimental to the interests of society and the party itself.

“In a democratic society, all party conferences are of considerable political and public importance and, as such, there should be no charging barrier for journalists to be able to act as the eyes and ears of the public by freely reporting at such events.

“Through objective journalism, the conference also provides a window for the global community to see UK democracy in action.”

A Conservative Party spokesman described the charge as “modest” and said it was to “discourage over-accreditation”.

Speaking to The Guardian, he added: “At one recent conference several thousand people who applied for free media accreditation failed to collect their passes, generating large amounts of paper and plastic waste. In previous years, police security checks for non-attendees have cost the party tens of thousands of pounds.”

Responding to this point, the media coaliton said: “The issue of so-called no-shows is a factor experienced by all popular events of press interest often due to changing daily news agendas.

“We have offered alternative ways to reduce the impact and cost of speculative applications, which have fallen on deaf ears.

“To live up to the Conservative Government’s mantra on press freedom, the accreditation fee for attending the conference must be scrapped.”