Andy Burnham urged to take 'immediate' action on papers

The Government is facing cross-party pressure to speed up measures to help the newspaper industry, which is shedding hundreds of jobs at an alarming rate.

Following talks with the Society of Editors, media secretary Andy Burnham has already asked his junior minister Lord Carter to explore possible help when he presents his final Digital Britain report in the summer.

The Government has also asked Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading to examine calls from newspaper publishers such as Trinity Mirror to relax media ownership rules to allow further newspaper mergers.

Now the Tories have joined Labour MPs in openly warning Burnham that the industry cannot wait for Lord Carter and that action is needed now.

Shadow media secretary Jeremy Hunt told the minister in the Commons: “What local newspapers need is not a review but a decision.

“At the current rate another 1,800 jobs will be lost in the newspaper industry before that review is developed.

“We need immediate practical steps before newspapers are closed and more jobs are lost.”

Former NUJ president Denis Macshane, the Labour MP for Rotherham, told the minister: “Lord Carter may be twittering away on the digital problems but we need more urgent examination now on how we keep our print newspapers and trained journalists alive and in business.”

Burnham however gave no indication that he intended to advance any measures ahead of Lord Carter’s report.

He defended the review and hinted that as as well as easing the regulatory controls there might be other measures to help journalism, falling short of direct funding.

He said: “I think that review is a pretty focused piece of work. Of course it is not necessarily funding – it might be regulatory change or it might be looking at new ways of providing services.”

Burnham told MPs that 57 local newsppaers had closed in the past 12 months.

He added: “These are issues of the most profound importance because they affect the health of emocracy at a local level.

“I think we do need to come forward with proposals to ensure there is high quality training and media at a local level across all the media.”

The minister is now to meet the NUJ parliamentary group of MPs who will step up pressure on the Government to act.

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