Thursday, 16 July 2009

MPs speak up for local press in Commons

I was working for Press Gazette yesterday and covered a Parliamentary debate on the regional press.
It was clear that MPs are getting the message that their local papers are in trouble and are concerned about the impact on local democracy.
Opening the debate, Mark Williams (Liberal Democrat MP for Ceredigion) spoke about cuts at two local papers within his constituency.
He said: “My local journalists tell me it is simply impossible for them to attend meetings of community and town councils in the way they used to, meetings of the Ceredigion Cabinet, its planning or scrutiny committee, or meetings of the CHC , the Local Health Board or police authority.”
I think this is very worrying and I am sure is happening across the country as a result of job cuts. Whose going to keep an eye on these important local authorities if the press bench is empty?
When I started on an evening paper we covered all city and county council committees as well as a number of district councils, heath authorities, community health councils and - in the summer - parish councils because the news editor thought we should "show our presence" (ie he couldn't find any other night jobs to send us on).
The MPs seemed to have embraced the arguments that regulations about regional media mergers should be relaxed, are very concerned about council publications taking local authority advertising away from local press and worried that Government ads will go on state run websites rather than be placed in newspapers.
You can read the full report here on the Press Gazette website.

No comments: