Newspaper Society attacks councils for harming press

Regional press body, the Newspaper Society, has written to the minister for local government, Rosie Winterton, to warn that councils are damaging local newspapers with their own free titles.

The industry body is protesting against competition to already troubled local newspapers from council-run freesheets. It has also raised concerns over worries on the government withdrawing advertising from local media.

The Newspaper Society said plans to remove the requirement for statutory notices to be published in local newspapers were troublesome for the industry and requested a meeting with the minister to discuss its concerns of local media groups.

Lynne Anderson, communications director of the NS, wrote: “Unfortunately, an increasing number of local councils across the UK are actively competing with local newspapers for readers and advertising revenues, causing real damage to these local businesses at a time when they are meant to be helping them to come through the recession.

“As well as being recognised as important local businesses and employers, local newspapers are of course vital to the functioning of any healthy local democracy, scrutinising the effective operation of local authorities, examining how council taxpayers’ money is spent, and holding elected representatives to account.”

The Newspaper Society’s move comes a week after Birmingham city council said it was considering whether to scrap its £600,000 a year fortnightly newspaper, Forward, in order to cut costs

At least two other local authorities have already scrapped their publications to save funds.

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