Praise for local media in foot and mouth report

WMN: huge coverage of report

Local media was so valuable in last year’s foot and mouth epidemic that in any future outbreak, it should be used to the full, Dr Iain Anderson’s final report on the crisis has recommended.

Regional media were singled out for fulfilling a special role in their communities during the months of anguish for farmers and local businesses.

The report said that in future, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) should provide tailored information to local radio stations or local newspapers in time for their deadlines, working with the Government Office Network. Similar arrangements should be made in Scotland and Wales, it said.

"Central government should consider how best it can support and strengthen regional communications in times of crisis. Regional operation directors who are responsible for local communications should be trained in media skills," said the report.

In a tribute to the work of newspapers, radio and television, the report said: "They were always on hand, pressing the local agenda on what they saw as a London-imposed national agenda.

"The Western Morning News, Western Daily Press, The Journal, Newcastle, Northern Echo, Yorkshire Post, News & Star, Carlisle, Cumberland News, The Scotsman, the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and others saw clearly how the national crisis was affecting their local communities.

"There were media campaigns on local issues, especially the issue of disposal. Local stories often became national headlines, none more so than Phoenix the calf," said the report.

Widespread praise went to local radio: "It provided the vital service of telling local people what was happening and where in their locality. At its best, it was up-to-date, accessible and regularly available."

Given special mention were BBC  Radio stations in Devon, Cumbria and Yorkshire.

Lucian Hudson, Defra’s director of communications, said that the department had now created eight regional desks and a budget of £600,000 had been allocated for regional coverage, with more than 100 media officials being trained for the job.

A quote from the Western Morning News, that contiguous culling was the single most controversial policy during the fight to stop F&M, was highlighted in the report.

The WMN gave the report huge coverage this week, with an eight-page supplement, four pages of news, one of comment and a special front page.

By Jean Morgan

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