Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has questioned the need for council-run papers to carry certain editorial unrelated to local authority activities.
Responding to a Newspaper Society request for an urgent meeting to discuss the impact of council papers, Pickles reasserted the Government’s commitment to address concerns about their commercial impact.
While recognising the need for local authorities to publish information about their services, Pickles questioned the necessity of carrying ‘the likes of TV listings and film reviews’in their pages.
Pickles’ comments follow a pledge by the new Con-Dem coalition to impose stricter rules to ‘stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers.”
Lynne Anderson, communications director of the NS, wrote to Pickles yesterday outlining the urgent need to discuss local government advertising practices.
The regional newspaper industry’s desire, she wrote, was for councils to use the local media ‘rather than undermining it by setting up rival publications and websites aimed at controlling media coverage of council activities and diverting advertising away from local papers and their websites.”
Pickles welcomed the intervention of the NS and made a commitment to meet its representatives.
“A vibrant local press is essential to help local democracy work effectively and to ensure that newly empowered councils are properly held to account,’he said.
‘But more importantly than that, the local newspaper is one of the places that communities come together, as important as the local shop, village pub or public park.
‘The new Government has pledged action to address public concern about unfair competition from excessively commercial council newspapers.
‘Councils will rightly want to inform their citizens about council services, but I question whether they need to have the likes of TV listings and film reviews provided in weekly council newspapers.”