SMPs report urges higher pay for local reporters

A Scottish parliamentary committee has said that local newspaper companies in Scotland need to pay more to frontline journalists.

A report from MSPs on the state of the local newspaper industry in Scotland raised concerns about the contrast between the large salaries paid to senior management and those offered to reporters joining the industry.

Following a six month investigation, members of Holyrood’s Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee found the ability to recruit and retain professional journalists was essential to the long-term health and sustainability of the industry.

The committee said it had noted how low pay existed in Scottish newspaper companies that were still making a profit.

“The committee also notes the contrast between the remuneration packages of senior management in the industry and the salaries being offered to journalists entering the profession in local newspapers,” the report said.

The report said it recognised the growing pressures on journalists as a result it was essential that the management of newspaper companies “take steps to make sustained investment in journalism”.

“Such investment must ensure that journalists are supported, developed and fairly remunerated in order to play their vital role in the production of vibrant titles that will continue to find a market and – perhaps more importantly – carry out their important cultural, scrutiny and other functions in local communities across Scotland.”

The committee carried out its inquiry into the local newspaper industry as a result of the difficulties the sector is facing, with papers suffering as a result of the recession and falling circulation as readers turn to the internet for news.

Committee convener Karen Whitefield said: “It’s imperative that the newspaper industry keeps pace with, and adapts to, technological and cultural changes in the media landscape.

“Newspapers must do all they can to remain relevant to people’s lives.”

She added: “Local newspapers are a vital training ground for journalists and have an important role to play in representing communities’ views on a number of issues.

“While it is up to the industry to manage its own future, we are calling on the Scottish Government to monitor the situation in the current challenging environment.”

The report voiced concerns about the impact a proposed new Scottish TV channel could have on the newspaper industry.

The Scottish Broadcasting Commission has already called for a new Scottish network to be established, with a digital TV channel and internet site.

But the report said that if such a channel was set up, ministers should assess the impact it would have on newspapers.

In it, they said: “The committee remains concerned, in the developing media landscape, about the potential impact on the newspaper industry of the proposals for television channel three.

“It remains unclear whether the proposals for a Scottish network, as recommended by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, will be taken forward.

“However, if the proposals were to be developed, the committee would ask the Scottish Government to assess what impact they might have on the printed media.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the report was a “useful contribution to the ongoing debate on how Scottish local newspapers can best adapt to the challenges they face”.

He added: “The Scottish Government agrees with the committee’s view that it is imperative that the newspaper industry keeps pace with, and adapts to, technological and cultural changes.

“We will continue to facilitate constructive dialogue between all interested parties in order to help the newspaper industry to do this.”

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