Saturday 26 June 2010

They think it's all Pravda: Government to tighten up rules on council newspaper 'propaganda'

The government wants to tighten the rules on council-funded free newspapers, saying they undermine a free press, BBC News reports today.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said independent local papers should not face competition from "propaganda on the rates".
The BBC says: "Mr Pickles wants to stop what he called "town hall Pravdas" passing themselves off as independent journalism. The government will hold a consultation on the best way to tighten the rules.
"The Newspaper Society has welcomed the government's move to tighten the council publicity code, saying local papers fulfilled a vital democratic role.
"Mr Pickles said: "The previous government's weakening of the rules on town hall publicity not only wasted taxpayers' money and added to the wave of junk mail, but has undermined a free press.
"Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on frontline services like providing regular rubbish collections. In an internet age, commercial newspapers should expect over time less state advertising as more information is syndicated online for free. The flipside is our free press should not face state competition from propaganda on the rates dressed up as local reporting."
According to the BBC, the government will now consult with councils - as they are legally obliged to do - and form a plan "by the end of the summer" as how best to tighten the rules.

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