Call for Scottish Govt inquiry into plight of local press

  • Fears over ‘very existence’ of a ‘free, diverse and responsible’ media
  • Scottish Government asked to set up ‘urgent’ Commission of Inquiry
  • Similar inquiry was held by Welsh Assembly last year

Calls have been made for the Scottish Government to launch an inquiry in the future of the country’s media amid fears over the ‘hollowing out and destruction of the local press”.

The NUJ believes there are the serious threats to the ‘very existence’of a ‘free, diverse and responsible’media in the country following a wave of cutbacks in the press and broadcast industries.

The union put forward a motion at last week’s Scottish Trades Union Congress asking the Scottish Government to set up an ‘urgent’Commission of Inquiry into the future of the media in Scotland.

It comes after Scotland-headquartered newspaper publisher Johnston Press last week reported a pre-tax loss of £143.8m for the 2011 financial year as it wrote down the value of its publishing assets.

NUJ delegate Simon Barrow told the conference: ‘The problem, in a nutshell, is an asset-stripped industry where big – often foreign – money interests are suppressing the alternative economic models needed to make an increasingly digitally driven media work.

‘Where precarious employment, low pay and redundancies are being used to keep costs down and gains in the hands of the few. And where a culture of hostility ends up blaming all journalists and media workers for the corruption within some key institutions.”

Barrow told delegates that ‘as crisis looms, the vultures are circling”, and said the inquiry should look into ‘the hollowing out and destruction of the local press, the impact of digital media, and the need for a properly remunerated, non-threatening environment for all media workers”.

The proposals included:

‘Congress calls on the General Council to urge the Scottish Government to set up urgently a Commission of Inquiry into the future of the media in Scotland, and to call on all member unions and the Scottish Government to promote the survival of thriving and responsible media, including:

  • supporting the creation of a Scottish Digital Broadcasting Network;
  • supporting the development of trust models of media ownership, such as the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian and Observer Group;
  • campaigning for the development of new forms of community media;
  • identifying and prosecuting media behaviour that breaches privacy laws;
  • developing new regulatory mechanisms to replace the discredited UK Press Complaints Commission; and
  • encouraging the development of new sources of funding for investigative journalism, including academic institutions and foundations concerned with civil society and democracy.”

A similar inquiry was held by the Welsh Assembly last year, with members expected to report back on their findings later this month.

A task and finish group was set up in October to examine the newspaper, television, radio and online industries in response to widespread cutbacks over the past four years.

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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