Windsor and Maidenhead Council is to appoint an independent advertising agency to sell advertising space on its website which, the Newspaper Society claims, will compete with independent local media for revenues.
A member of the council's cabinet will vet and approve each advert and an independent advertising agency will work on a commission basis. The plans were approved at a meeting in March.
The worrying move for local media publishers comes as a new code is imposed limiting the frequency and scope of council publications after complaints that they were unfair competition for the local press.
Lynne Anderson, head of communications at the Newspaper Society said: "Local authorities must not use public funds to compete for readers and advertising with the only voices which can hold them to account - independent local newspapers and their websites. This would never be tolerated at a national level and should not be tolerated locally.
"The local media is reliant on advertising revenue to fund its journalism - revenue which has been under severe challenge as the industry fights its way out of the economic downturn. The local council should be supporting local businesses, not competing with them for vital advertising revenues."
Source: Newspaper Society.Full story in Slough Observer.