Local newspapers being “driven out of business” by councils

Local newspapers risk being “driven out of business” by the rise of council funded publications, the  Conservative shadow local government secretary has told Publicservice.co.uk.

Councils should be required to review their own publications to check they are not “going beyond their remit,” said  Caroline Spelman, adding: “At one time, literature from the town hall was confined to updates about bin collections over Christmas or changes to library opening times – now they have evolved into fully fledged newspapers.”

Local Government Association chief executive John Ransford said that “local newspapers have abandoned reporting of local political situations”, but added: “It’s important that there is a vibrant local media and so I think it is important that councils have talks with the local press to see if arrangements can be reached.”

An Early Day Motion, proposed by Paul Burstow MP on 9 December, calls on the Competition Commission and Audit Commission to review the impact of the growth of local authority funded-newspapers on the local media market and free speech.

So far 41 MPs have signed the motion, which also outlines concern over the closure of 100 local newspapers across the UK in 2009, saying: “local newspapers have a long track record of serving and being at the heart of their communities, and are widely acknowledged as the most trusted of all media.”

This follows an recently proposed investigation by the NUJ to see how councils could fund struggling regional newspapers.

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