Newspaper Society president Tim Bowdler issued a stark warning to the Prime Minister this week: “Don’t take the health of our industry for granted,” writes Ian Reeves.
Speaking at the NS lunch, at which Tony Blair was the guest of honour on his 50th birthday, Bowdler voiced the industry’s misgivings about government policy over the communications bill. “In particular, we remain unconvinced that the communications bill will allow continuation of a vigorous, independent and successful newspaper industry,” he said. “We have real misgivings about the intended role of Ofcom and the proposed newspaper merger regime.
“We hope that our dialogue with the Government will continue on these important issues and that we may yet find a better understanding of the commercial and regulatory challenges which our industry faces.”
Although he didn’t address Bowdler’s misgivings head-on, the PM said in his speech to 250 NS members that local newspapers remained a vital part of the fabric of the country and fulfil a role that politicians “underestimate at their peril”. “It doesn’t mean we always agree with you – any more than you do with us – but it does mean we mustn’t ignore you. Because you reflect the priorities, hopes and fears of your readers, you help anchor us in the real world outside Westminster.”
Noting that regional newspapers were more trusted than any other media, he added: “Healthy local newspapers are important to a healthy democracy and vibrant communities.”