MPs key recommendations on future of local media

The Culture Media and Sport Select Committee has this morning delivered its report into the Future of local media.

The headline story from the report was its recommendation for the Office of Fair Trading to examine council-run newspapers effect on local titles; however the report contains a total of 42 recommendations and conclusions.

Here are just a few of its key findings (links are to previous stories about each issue):

BBC website: ‘We recommend that every local BBC website should link to the local newspaper websites for that area.”

State funding: ‘Local newspapers have recently suffered from an unprecedented downturn in revenues…The state subsidy of national and local newspapers, as has been seen recently in France, is not the solution.

‘Newspapers should remain independent of state funding and control and attempt to profit from diversifying their online presence as best as they can.”

Cross-media ownership: ‘The evidence we have heard from local media groups about the need to modify the merger regime and cross-media ownership rules is persuasive.

‘We welcome the recommendations made by Ofcom in their report to the Secretary of State on media cross-ownership rules, and urge the Government to implement them.

‘However we believe more far-reaching reform is needed…Despite the evidence given by the Office of Fair Trading, we believe that the current media merger regime does not fully reflect this.

‘We recommend that the Government re-examine the arrangement by carrying out a consultation on a possible multi-media merger regime.”

Council-run papers: ‘The current DCLG guidance in this area is currently being breached. The DCLG should set up a system to monitor this situation closely.

“However we believe these guidelines, even if adhered to, do not go far enough.

‘There should be specific, detailed guidance for local authority newspapers and magazines which should state that it be mandatory that all publications of this type make clear, not only on the front page but throughout the publication, that they are a local authority publication.”

Broadcast pooling: ‘The BBC, ITN and Sky are all able to use the broadcast pool content online as well as on television and it is against the public interest to deny local and regional newspapers this opportunity.

‘There needs to be clarity regarding who has access to footage from, what are currently, single camera assignments.

‘If the members of the broadcast pool are not prepared to make the content available to the Press Association at a reasonable cost, then the Government should ensure the right of access for the Press Association digital pool reporters alongside the broadcast pool at national events.”

Freeing local media groups: ‘We are concerned at local newspaper groups’ claims that they are unable to undertake any collective industry discussions about the issues raised by aggregators without it breaching competition law.

‘We recommend that this apparent restriction be considered by the Office of Fair Trading and that guidance is given, as appropriate, on the extent to which such discussions can be held without being deemed anti-competitive.”

IFNCs: ‘It is vital that there is a continuation of a regional news service on Channel 3 until the introduction of IFNCs.

‘We are concerned that the time lag until IFNCs become fully functioning in 2013 may lead to a worrying deficit.

‘If it is not financially viable for existing Channel 3 licensees to provide this service because the cost of doing so exceeds the value of their licences then other, non-regional, obligations of those licensees should be partially or completely suspended.”

IFNC funding: ‘We are sceptical about ITV’s support for IFNCs being contingent on their retaining the advertising in regional news slots as they also argue that there is little revenue to be gained from advertising around news.

‘If the cost of fulfilling regional news vastly exceeds the revenue involved, we can see no reason why this small advertising revenue should not be allowed to help fund replacement for Channel 3 news providers.”

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