The Newspaper Society is keeping up the pressure over competition to the local press from council newspapers in a letter sent this week to the Minister for Local Government Rosie Winterton.
It highlights the Society's concerns about council publications competing with local media for readers and advertising revenue as well as worries about the Government withdrawing its advertising from local media and current proposals to remove the requirement for statutory notices to be published in local newspapers.
“We note your recent comments about the important role local councils can play in helping their local businesses to grow and prosper and their region to grow economically,” 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.”
Her letter to Winterton quotes a passage from Digital Britain which acknowledges that if council newspapers operate in a way that makes local media unviable they would be “against the public interest” and invites the Audit Commission to undertake an inquiry into the practice.
The NS has requested a meeting with Winterton over the summer to discuss the issues raised in the letter.