Thursday 10 September 2009

Newspaper Society urges OFT to assess impact of council papers on local press

The Newspaper Society has written to the Office of Fair Trading asking if it will look at the impact of council newspapers on the local press.
It follows a meeting with the Audit Commission over the summer which confirmed that its upcoming inquiry into council publications will not be looking into their impact on local newspapers.
The Audit Commission said it planned to carry out wider research into the value achieved by council spending on communicating with the public in order to spread good practice.
On the launch of the Digital Britain report, the then Communications Minister Stephen Carter wrote to the Audit Commission highlighting “the adverse impact on local newspapers of the increasing role of local authorities in taking paid advertising to support local authority information sheets.”
He invited the Commission to “undertake a specific inquiry into the relationship between advertising in local authority and commercial newspapers, the prevalence of this practice and if restraints should be placed on local authority activity in this field.”
Lynne Anderson, communications director at the NS, has written to the OFT explaining the limited scope of the Audit Commission inquiry and asked if it would now be taking up this aspect of the Digital Britain invitation.
“It would be unfortunate, given the concerns expressed by the OFT, by Digital Britain and by ministers at a senior level within the Government, if the market impact of local authority publications on the commercial local media industry was not examined at all and if no-one was able to make any recommendations to Government on whether constraints should be placed on those local authorities which may be overstepping the mark,” she said.

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