Ad in council freesheet appears to contradict authority claim that it does not compete with local media

Wirral Council has insisted it does not seek to compete with local newspapers on its patch despite publishing an appeal for advertisers in its monthly publication.

The advert in the Wirral View (pictured) says: “Advertise Your Business to Every Home, Every Business, Every Month”.

This appears to contradict a statement issued yesterday by the council to Press Gazette which said: “We have deliberately not sought to compete with the local media for advertising revenue, and we have ensured Wirral View is a completely different product to the existing local free-sheets.”

Press Gazette yesterday reported on the closure of the fortnightly Wirral News, which came ten months after the launch of the council’s Wirral View.

In its statement announcing the closure of Wirral News, publisher Trinity Mirror said: “The Wirral marketplace has become increasingly crowded with free print products with now even Wirral Borough Council producing a monthly free print publication themselves.

“We believe that there is no longer a viable, scaleable or long-term future for free/giveaway print products within the Wirral marketplace”.

Newsquest also publishes a weekly title in the area, which is on the other side of Mersey from Liverpool, called the Wirral Globe.

Despite being blamed for the closure of Wirral News, Wirral Council holds that it did not violate government regulations by publishing its monthly newsletter Wirral View.

It told Press Gazette that central government Publicity Code prohibiting local authorities from publishing newsletters more than quarterly in frequency is a recommendation rather than a legal obligation.

Upon the initial release of the Wirral View in October 2016, the council said: “The launch of Wirral View came after extensive market research last year by leading market research agency Ipsos Mori showed 6 out of 10 Wirral residents do not feel well informed about local services and community information, with the figure even greater in the borough’s more economically deprived areas.”

Wirral Council’s head of communications Kevin MacCallum said: “Our Residents’ Survey last year told us we weren’t communicating well enough with residents. It’s almost impossible for the council to do its job well if its main customers – Wirral residents – do not know what services it provides and what help is on offer.

“This is why keeping residents well-informed is incredibly important and it’s why we made improving our communications a high priority.”

In 2014 local government minister Kris Hopkins wrote to several councils regarding their violation of the Publicity Code. She said: “Newsletters, newssheets or similar communications should not issue more frequently than quarterly.

“The great majority of local authorities comply with the Publicity Code, which was designed to ensure the independent local media – a vital part in any local democracy – does not face unfair competition.

“Councils should now take steps to ensure publication in the future will be in line with the Code’s provisions.”

Comments

3 thoughts on “Ad in council freesheet appears to contradict authority claim that it does not compete with local media”

  1. I live in the Wirral and my wife pays council tax to Wirral Council.

    There have so far been six issues, October 2016, November 2016, December 2016, January 2017, February 2017 and March 2017.

    Issues planned for April 2017 and May 2017 were axed because of the local elections followed by the general election.

    However if they’d been following the Code, they would’ve only been allowed to publish quarterly (which would’ve been two issues instead of six).

    One of the local free newspapers has announced recently that they’re closing (Wirral News). That leaves only two local newspapers (Wirral Globe (free) and Liverpool Echo (paid)) that cover the local area.

    There are many types of public notices that Wirral Council are required to publish in two local newspapers in the area. However there are only two newspapers left!

    The other concern I have is that the Wirral Council publication (Wirral View) is run not on a commercial basis but with taxpayer subsidy. It was estimated that it’d need £79,980 in 16-17, £152,160 in 17-18, £143,580 in 18-19, £134,142 in 19-20.

    In addition to the print version (with advertising), they have a website (on which they have advertising too).

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