Tuesday, 20 January 2009

NS welcomes Balls backing but warns: "In some parts of the country the local authority may become the only source of local news”

The Newspaper Society has welcomed the support of a Government minister in its battle to hold on to statutory local authority advertising. But it has warned that if newspapers are forced to close in the economic downturn, the only source of local news in some areas of the country will be from council-owned papers.
Ed Balls, the secretary for children, schools and families, voiced his opposition to any moves by local or central government to undermine local media – including local authority publications and websites competing for readers and advertising revenues and current government proposals to remove the obligation to place public notices in local newspapers - describing them as a “retrograde thing to do”.
Balls made the remarks at at a lunch organised by the Newspaper Conference , which represents London and political editors of regional newspapers who are members of the Newspaper Society.
He described local newspapers as playing a “very important role” in the community. “I don’t think it would be sensible to have any strategy on these things which actively damages them.”
The MP was asked by the NS for his views on removal of statutory notices from local papers. The NS claims local authorities are increasingly seeking to supplant the role of local newspapers by producing publications and websites offering local news and competing head-to-head with local newspapers for third party advertising revenues.
Lynne Anderson, director of communications for the Newspaper Society, warned. “It is probably not an exaggeration to say, in the current economic climate [with pressure on all media companies, the severe drop in advertising revenues and titles closing], that in some parts of the country the local authority may become the only source of local news,”

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