The Government has promised legislation to clamp down on the remaining local authority-run newspapers.
The Local Audit and Accountaility Bill, unveiled as part of yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, includes a clause which will put the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity on a legal footing.
That code, outlined in 2011, limits the frequency of council-run newspapers to quarterly (except in the case of monthly magazines produced by parish councils).
While most local authorities adhere to the code, a handful continue to publish subsidised newspapers which compete for advertising with commercially-run titles.
These have been condemned as “town hall Pravdas” which are used as propaganda vehicles by local authorities without providing the scrutiny which commercially-run local newspaper provide.
Commenting on the Bill, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This government is reining in the quango state, saving taxpayers’ money and giving more power to local people. This bill extends the government’s localism agenda – ensuring robust scrutiny of council spending, strengthening the role of direct democracy and protecting an independent free press.”
Tower Hamlets continues to run a weekly newspaper called East End Life in direct competition with Archant’s East London Advertiser.
In March Press Gazette reported how an press officers had contacted councillors asking them to change quotes used in an East End Life report of a council debate.