Society of Editors: Subsidy for regional press 'not a goer'

A state subsidy for regional newspapers would not work, the Society of Editors has claimed – but Government help is still needed.

Last week, Ashok Kumar, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland – where both Trinity Mirror‘s Evening Gazette and Newsquest‘s Northern Echo have made cuts recently – announced he would ask for a subsidy in parliament next week.

But Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said it could not happen – although Government help was needed in other ways.

“A simple state subsidy is probably not something that will be a goer, for various reasons, not least because of the complexity of regulatory control we would have to follow,” he told Press Gazette.

The Society’s parliamentary and legal committee last week met culture secretary Andy Burnham and pressed for reform.

‘Local papers are the lifeblood of their communities and they are especially affected by the current situation,’said Satchwell.

‘There are areas to do with the relaxation of the monopolies legislation, and the rules about media ownership.

‘I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, but there are an awful lot of areas in which the Government could help the regional press at this crucial time.”

Satchwell also said conditional fee arrangements in libel cases – the so-called no-win, no-fee system – could be reformed to protect the press.

‘There is a whole raft of things of relatively small things, but together they could have a significant difference to protect our industry,’he said.

Burnham has asked the Society to produce a fuller on report on measures that could help the regional press.

The Commons media select committee is currently carrying out a review into press standards, self-regulation and libel laws.

Publishers are expected to be called to give evidence in parliament from the beginning of March.

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