Mensch calls for more tax subsidies for local press

  • Mensch: ‘Only a local paper will hold a council or MP to account’
  • NUJ calls for 1% levy on pay TV operators to subsidise local press
  • Labour MP Linda Riordan puts down early day motion on Johnston Press

Tory MP Louise Mensch has called for more subsidies and tax advantages for local newspapers as a means of preserving the UK’s ‘most popular print media”.

The comments were made ahead of a debate on the future of local newspapers at Westminster tomorrow organised by Mensch, the MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire and member of the Commons culture committee.

Mensch has been raising awareness of the local press since Johnston Press announced last week two daily newspapers in her constituency, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo and Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, will become weeklies from next month.

‘The local press performs a unique function in our democracy, as often only a local paper will hold a council or MP to account,’said Mensch.

‘Government has to look at ways of preserving Britain’s most popular print media – read by an estimated 33 million people per month.

‘When we think of so many things that are subsidised that have only limited appeal, surely there is a case for tax advantages for local papers.”

Mensch suggested that if a ‘pure profit’model did not work then the Governement should look at ‘ways to facilitate local communities and businesses owning their own papers – like the supporters trust model for football clubs.”

NUJ calls for levy on pay TV operators

Another Labour MP, the representative for Great Grimsby and a member of the NUJ Parliamentary Group, said: ‘Reporters having bigger and bigger patches to cover lose that vital connection with the community they serve. It means that local papers cannot fulfil their vital role as a public watchdog, holding local politicians and businesses to account.

‘It means that the special relationship between the reader and their local reporter is being broken. Local newspapers are vital for local democracy. When people feel they have lost touch with their local paper, they feel a lost a sense of community, a vulnerability and a powerlessness.’

Ahead today’s meeting the NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet warned that cuts to the local press meant ‘court cases are not being covered, council meetings are not reported and reporters have no time to dig and delve for stories”.

She also called for a one per cent levy on pay TV operators like BSkyB and Virgin Media.

‘This is not the service that readers deserve,’she said. ‘All this means that community and grassroots news has suffered.

‘An industry levy – a tax or charge on the revenues or profits of media organisations – common in many European countries is one option to provide subsidies elsewhere in the industry.

‘A levy of one per cent on pay TV operators, such as Sky and Virgin Media, could bring in around £70 million a year.”

Johnston Press early day motion

Last week the Labour for Halifax, Linda Riordan, put down an early day motion on Johnston Press after the publisher announced that five of its dailies would become weeklies in May.

It read:

“That this House notes with sadness the decision by Johnston Press to move many long-established local newspapers from a daily publication to a weekly publication; condemns this unnecessary move and the implications it will have for the jobs of many journalists, printers, newspaper sellers and newspaper deliveries; praises the role local daily newspapers like the Halifax Courier and other titles in towns like Kettering, Northampton, Peterborough and Scarborough play in local democracy and in reporting the news on a daily basis; further notes the knock-on effect this will have on the local economies of the towns affected; urges Johnston Press to protect existing jobs at the newspaper titles affected and ensure that there are no compulsory job losses; further urges them to consult fully with the National Union of Journalists about their proposals; and hopes that local newspapers will continue to play an important role in the life of local communities for many years to come.”

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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