Jobs crisis spurs Cabinet to consider hosting summit

By David Rose

Tony Blair’s government this week voiced concern over the massive and continuing job losses among regional journalists by agreeing to consider hosting a crisis summit.

Newspaper employers, as well as the NUJ, would be invited to take part.

At the same time, the Government said it would consider providing funding to commission independent research to pinpoint the cause of the redundancies, which have cost the jobs of 1,000 journalists in the past six months.

Under-secretary of state for employment relations Gerry Sutcliffe promised to discuss both initiatives with ministerial colleagues after meeting MPs and NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear.

Sutcliffe (pictured) agreed to the meeting after the NUJ Parliamentary group headed by Labour MPs Austin Mitchell and John McDonnell raised the redundancies in a Parliamentary debate.

The MPs claimed the job cutbacks by newspaper publishers meant that some courts and councils were no longer being reported.

They also cast doubts on claims that the redundancies were wholly due to the loss of newspaper recruitment advertising to the internet. The MPs said the cutbacks had come at a time when all newspaper groups were making huge profits.

The independent research, if it is given the Government’s go-ahead, would be designed to get at the truth behind the job losses, and could lead to a further inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading.

If the seminar on the industry’s future goes ahead, it will be chaired by Sutcliffe.

The decision on whether to commission research will be taken by Alun Michael, minister of state for industry and the regions, who before taking up politics was a reporter with the South Wales Echo.

Dear welcomed Sutcliffe’s promise to consider action. "He understood the problem about the impact of the cuts on journalists’ ability to do their jobs and hold local bodies such as councils to account," he told Press Gazette after the meeting.

"We are also pleased he has listened to our concerns about the profits regional newspapers are making and that he is going to look at a course of action. We are pleased with the progress that has been made."

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