News agencies' group condemns PA public service reporting plan as being 'UK version of Pravda'
The National Association of Press Agencies is seeking talks with the new coalition government in a bid to kill the PA plan for a public service reporting network - described by NAPA as "some kind of UK version of Pravda". The association, which represents the UK's freelance news agencies, has revealed that it held talks last year with the Department of Culture Media and Sport and with the then Conservative shadow culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt MP. NAPA said it was now planning further talks with Hunt, following his appointment as Culture Secretary. It says the original proposals for the PA unit - which would aim to fill the reporting gap left by the local press cutting its court and council coverage - suggested that funding could come from top-slicing the BBC TV Licence Fee, but NAPA questions the concept of using public money "to distort the competitive market for news in the UK." NAPA treasurer Chris Johnson said: "This would be the first step on a slippery slope to further demands for the BBC licence fee cash to be used to subsidise all kinds of reporting deemed 'too expensive' for commercial companies. Many NAPA members find that with the retrenchment of local newspapers they are increasingly being called-upon to provide grass-roots content of all kinds. "We can see no justification for replacing staff who have been made redundant with an expanded network of PA staff subsidised with public money. It would tend towards creating a dangerous reporting monoculture - some kind of UK version of Pravda - and a phenomenon that is quite alien to the British news industry and a free press. "NAPA will raise its concerns with Jeremy Hunt and will encourage the DCMS to examine the potentially damaging and distorting effects this plan would have on an already a fragile market. We believe that it would distort the market and serious discourage new entrants from setting-up in business. It would be anti-competitive, and should be resisted at all costs."
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