Nick Clegg: “The underlying strength of local papers is growing”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the annual Newspaper Conference lunch at Parliament yesterday that regional newspapers were better placed to ‘understand, explain and articulate’central Government politics than other parts of the ‘Westminster media bunker”.

Speaking at the Newspaper Society hosted lunch for regional press lobby correspondents, editors and publishers, Clegg said: ‘I am a passionate believer in what you do.”

He said the Government will ‘honour our commitment’to rein in council newspapers.

And he said: ‘The underlying strength of your newspapers seems to be growing rather than diminishing. You’ve got more and more readers, and crucially you have rates of trust in what you produce which is the envy of many other parts of the media.

‘How you commercialise that in a world in which commercial advertising revenues are restricted and public advertising revenues have certainly been very severely restricted, I understand, is tricky and I think you’re going through a transition period.

‘But the basic building blocks of a vibrant and sustainable regional newspaper industry seem to be me to ever firmer than they were in the past.”

He added: ‘I also think that some of the big, big challenges that we as a Government are facing are challenges which, dare I say it, you are in a position to understand, and explain, and articulate, often much, much more fully and with greater insight than is often the case from the Westminster media bunker.”

Speaking about the Coalition’s plans to devolve power from central Government to the regions, Clegg said he hoped that the regional press would make sure ‘we hear the voice of the regions”.

And he added: ‘I think you are much better placed to connect the national with the regional, the Westminster to the town hall, than many other media are, and in a way that goes with the grain of what people want from their newspaper these days.’

NS president Georgina Harvey, managing director of Trinity Mirror Regionals, gave the vote of thanks at the end of the lunch.

She said: ‘We are a media that have more journalists on the ground, day in day out, than any other media.

‘What I would like to point out is that this highly professional and well-trained force of local journalism is largely funded, as we know regional media is very different to national media, by advertising revenue.

She said she hoped in times ‘of unprecedented change and challenge’that local and central government wouldn’t be, ‘tempted to continue to withdraw much-needed advertising pounds out of regional newspapers.

“We are an industry that is navigating very well through extremely choppy economic waters but I know that we are very resilient and very tough and we are absolutely committed to the communities that we serve.”

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