Action plan for Andy Burnham to save local press

Regional press leaders have sent Culture Secretary Andy Burnham a list of urgent action points to help save the industry.

Over the past six months, more than 1,000 journalists’ jobs are believed to have been cut from regional newspapers. Dozens of newspapers have closed and many towns have lost their newspaper offices.

Now the Society of Editors and the Newspaper Society have issued the government with an action plan to help an industry which they say is “under special pressure from the economic downturn”.

The presidents of both organisations met the minister last week and have responded to his request for quick action points.

These include:

  • Discouraging local government publications and websites that compete directly with local papers.
  • Encouraging government advertising in the regional press.
  • Removing the threat to relaxed obligations to advertise public notices in local newspapers.
  • Looking urgently for effective ways in which Google and others could be prevented from profiting from third party content without recompense to or consent from those who generated the material.
  • Investment of public funds for training directly with media companies and the industry’s main training organisation, the NCTJ, to help local papers maintain news gathering and encourage training for multi-platform news delivery.

Ministers are already understood to be discussing relaxing controls over regional press ownership, which both organisations have backed.

Society of Editors president and Ipswich Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover said: “We are pleased that the secretary of state is concerned about the special problems of the regional press and these ideas could have a direct and speedy effect on local and regional papers and therefore on local communities and democracy.

“The industry is not asking for special treatment but rather for government action to help ensure there is a level playing field in a rapidly changing media market place. The problem is serious and urgent.”

Members of the National Union of Journalists are due to meet MPs today in a special lobby of parliament to discuss the challenges currently facing British journalism.

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