Free newspaper plan for Scottish teenagers

The Scottish Government has been asked to back a scheme to give a year’s free newspaper subscription to every 17-year-old in order to give a boost to the industry.

Distribution firm Menzies Group has approached enterprise minister Jim Mather with the free subscription proposal and is awaiting a response.

A Menzies Group spokesman said the proposal was similar to that introduced in France earlier this year.

In February, French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced that every 18-year-old in the country would get a free daily newspaper of their choice.

The newspaper groups cover the cost of production and the French government pays for the papers to be distributed to homes.

A Scottish Government spokesman told Press Gazette it was examining a number of ideas to “breathe fresh life” into the newspaper industry.

Enterprise minister Jim Mather held a summit in February where management, journalists, unions and distributors discussed the future.

“We recognise that Scotland’s newspaper industry is facing a number of challenges,” the spokesman said.

“There is an absolute shared conviction that newspapers still have an important role to play in the economic and democratic fabric of Scotland.”

He added: “Mr Mather has had a series of meetings with various stakeholders from the newspaper industry to discuss specific challenges that the industry is facing and forthcoming initiatives.

“There are clearly a number of ideas which can help breathe fresh life into the industry to help secure a viable future.

“We look forward to seeing these industry initiatives develop, however, it is vital that these initiatives have the buy-in of the entire sector.”

In the April national newspaper ABCs, the Sunday Herald was the biggest faller, down 15.91 per cent year on year to 40,303.

Other double-digit declines came from sister title The Herald, down 10.71 per cent at 58,706, and Scotland on Sunday, down 10.1 per cent at 60,325.

In evidence to the Scottish affairs committee in March, NUJ Scotland organiser Paul Holleran said: “In the past five years there have been a number of actions that have impacted on the quality of the newspapers in Scotland.”

He added: “During that period, as profitability of these titles has gone up – and it has gone up, quite dramatically – they have closed a number of correspondents.

“There’s a lack of coverage of European Parliament, in Brussels and Strasbourg, the number of columnists has gone down, there’s less diversity. That’s part of the problem of falling circulation.”

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