The government has called for an inquiry into the effect council-funded publications are having on the local commercial media.
Newspaper groups have complained that they are under increasing pressure from public sector bodies developing their own media outlets – such as newspapers and online TV channels.
Some of them directly for compete for advertising revenue with the established local press. Local authorities argue that their own communications are important to ensure accountability.
In his Digital Britain report, communications minister Stephen Carter invited the Audit Commission to look at “the prevalance of this practice, its impact and to make recommendations on best practice and if restraints should be placed on local authority activity in this field”.
“While local authority information sheets can serve a useful purpose for local residents and businesses, they will inevitably not be as rigorous in holding local institutions to account as independent local media,” the Digital Britain report said today.
Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey welcomed the review. She said in a statement: “Not before time the Audit Commission are to look at the travesty of local councils using tax payers money to masquerade as and compete directly with local newspapers. This must be tackled with a sense of urgency.”