Council ads move does not tackle 'propaganda sheets'

The regional newspaper industry has welcomed news that planning notices will still have to be advertised by local authorities in the regional press.

But concerns have been raised that yesterday’s announcement does not address the issue of local authority funded newspapers which in many cases now compete for advertising with commercially run newspapers.

The Government announced yesterday that it had rejected proposals to ease rules which say planning applications must be advertised in local newspapers. Local newspapers trade body the Newspaper Society has esimated that such adverts account for around £15m a year of income for local newspapers.

“This is evidently excellent news,” said Doug Melloy, editor of the Rotherham Advertiser. “It’s good news for revenue but it’s more about making the public aware. We don’t want newspapers to not be able to report local news, and we feared local authorities would want to hide things away if the proposal hadn’t been rejected. We’re glad the public will now be able to see everything, as not everyone would access the online information.”

Lynne Anderson, communications director at the Newspaper Society, said: “We welcome the Government’s announcement. The proposals would have paved the way for all statutory notices to be removed from local papers, seriously undermining the public’s right to know.”

“It is important that statutory notices are published in independent local newspapers, unconnected with the local authority and any of its publications.

“Ministers and MPs have been highly critical of what one described as ‘propaganda sheets masquerading as newspapers,’ run and funded by councils, which compete with the independent press for readers and advertisers. However, we have yet to see the results of the Digital Britain initiatives intended to investigate and address this problem.”

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