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Greenslade: MPs reject code to restrict council-run newspapers

January 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Local media, Politics

A Commons committee has rejected a plan by communities minister Eric Pickles designed to restrict council-run newspapers, reports Roy Greenslade.

MPs on the communities and local government select committee argue that a revised code drawn up by Pickles to prevent the publication of so-called “town hall Pravdas” should be reconsidered.

In a lengthy report released today on the proposed code of recommended practice on local authority publicity, the committee accuses the minister of failing to provide proof that council-run papers threaten commercial newspapers.

Full report on Greenslade blog at this link.

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Behind the scenes of a council rag

April 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Media blogger Jon Slattery has persuaded an anonymous editor of a council-run newspaper to reveal his publication’s agenda and motivation.

In a specially commissioned post, the editor who does not describe himself as a journalist, is critical of new and expanding ‘council rags’ – as well as local newspapers for their cost-cutting measures.

[I]f you look at what some of the boroughs, like Hammersmith and Fulham, are doing with their faux newspaper, complete with motoring, gardening and sports pages and property supplements, they have crossed the line between a council rag and a thing that you would pick up casually, and think ‘this is a real newspaper’. I think that is dangerous.

Full post at this link…

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Your guide to the CMS Report on the Future for Local and Regional Media

April 6th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Local media, Media releases, Newspapers

The UK parliament’s cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee published the results of its year-long inquiry into the state and future of local and regional UK media today, calling for greater investigation of and stronger rules for council-run newspapers.

“We endorse the sentiment that it is local journalism, rather than local newspapers, that needs saving,” says the report.

“The two are far from mutually exclusive, but newspapers need to be innovative in the way they train their journalists to work in a multiplatform world.”

The full report is embedded below, courtesy of Scribd, and you can read previous reports on the committee’s evidence sessions at this link. But for your perusing pleasure, here’s our breakdown of some of the key sections and quotes:

  • p4 – “the broadcast pool”: “We take note of the Press Association’s concerns about the exclusivity of the ‘broadcast pool’ (video content of news events that are only allowed to be covered by a single camera, and is then shared between the BBC, ITN and Sky) and conclude that it is no longer appropriate to distinguish between broadcast and non-broadcast media when newspapers are increasingly using video on their websites.”
  • p9 – breakdown of local media operators and owners;
  • p11 – the role of local and regional newspapers in “the news pyramid”;
  • p16 – “We welcome the BBC’s proposals to increase the number of external links on its websites. We recommend that every local BBC website should link to the local newspaper websites for that area.”
  • p17 – Committee’s views on state subsidies for local and regional media.
  • p17-21 – recommendations for changes to cross-media ownership rules and regulations;
  • p24-5 – recommendations regarding local authority newspapers and council publications;
  • p28 – “For a long time local newspapers have made relatively little change to their business models. Now, along with the other traditional media platforms of television and radio, they face a vast array of digital and internet services, providing relatively easy market entry, all vying for advertising revenue and readerships. While some economic factors are cyclical, other changes of a structural nature are likely to be permanent. As is clear from the evidence we have heard from local newspapers themselves, local newspapers must innovate and re-evaluate the traditional model of local print media in order to survive in the new digital era.”
  • p33 – “the PSB obligations and other regulatory burdens on ITV need to be reduced, if not removed”;
  • p38 – recommendations regarding the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) plans – though these are a little out of date given that the winning bids for the pilots have now been announced;
  • p51Local radio and localness and the importance of community radio.
  • p60-4 – On Google’s impact on local newspapers.

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Heather Brooke: ‘PR is infecting public institutions and destroying our democracy’

March 29th, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Newspapers

In the latest extract of Heather Brooke’s book, ‘The Silent State’, published in the Mail on Sunday yesterday, the investigative journalist looks at the effect of PR in public institutions.

On council-run newspapers:

My prediction is this: the more officials take over the news the more our money will be wasted. Scrutiny by the public keeps the powerful honest.

And on trying to reach officials:

PR people have manoeuvred themselves to the top of the political pole. Even senior managers have to get clearance from the Press office to speak to the public.

Full post at this link…

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Salford Star: Council newspaper costing £27,797 a month – what impact on local news?

February 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Figures released by a Freedom of Information request made by the Salford Star suggest that Salford Council’s Life in Salford magazine is costing £27,797 per month, the title reports.

The Star asks what the production of the magazine and the council’s expenditure on it mean for local news outlets – the Salford Advertiser has recently withdrawn free home delivery from more postcode areas, while the Star “struggles to get back into print”:

While the Salford Star and the Salford Advertiser are only available free online, an estimated two thirds of Salford’s population do not have access to the internet.

The only free printed information people are now getting about their city comes courtesy of Salford City Council and its Life in Salford magazine. With no criticism of the Council, no debate, no accountability, low quality content and bucket loads of public money showered all over it…

Full story at this link…

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PCC should not regulate Council-run newspapers, says finance board

December 15th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Newspapers, Press freedom and ethics

As part of its industry consultation,  the Press Standards Board of Finance Ltd (PressBoF) has decided that local authority publications should not be brought within the remit of the Press the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

“It has decided against doing so on the basis that such publications tend to be marketing material,” the board announced today.

PressBoF, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission. Its industry consultation also decided that online-only publications – mainly magazine sites – should come under the PCC’s remit.

“It’s one of those things, we’re conscious there are a reasonable number of local authority publications out there,” PressBoF secretary, Jim Raeburn told “Should they be under umbrella of PCC or not?” The board’s decision, he said, was no.

PressBoF, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission.

In late November, Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, told the House of Commons culture media and sport select committee that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has no remit on authority publications:

“This is a lacuna. If this is a serious issue from the perspective of (a) the use of taxpayers’ money and (b) the consequences for independent journalism in any given locality, I think it is something that Parliament has to decide what it wants to do about.

“Either the government needs to give some guidance, or give somebody else the responsibility to look at it, but at the moment, we [Ofcom] certainly do not, and nor do the OFT.”

Stewart Purvis, content regulation partner for Ofcom, who was also giving evidence, said: “I just feel there is a missing area, which is the regulation, if that is the right word, of what local authorities do and do not do.

“I am reminded of the case of the former Mayor of London who, if I remember, got into trouble with some supervisory body over what he should or should not have said to an Evening Standard reporter.”

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MediaGuardian: MPs slam council newspapers as councillors defend freesheets

October 28th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Members of the UK parliament’s cross-party Commons culture, media and sport select committee resoundingly criticised local authority newspapers yesterday, with one MP describing the publications as ‘propaganda’.

The committee is running an inquiry into the future of local and regional media and heard evidence from local authority representatives on the issue.

Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Mark Loveday spoke in defence of the papers to the committee: “The paid-for local media was declining well before we accepted advertising in any shape or form.”

Full story at this link…

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Council news round-up: ad revenue shortage for East End Life and plans for new council TV

September 17th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

There’s been much debate amongst regional and local newspaper representatives in the UK about the impact of local authority ‘newspapers’ or freesheets on their advertising revenue, role in the community and news coverage.

Yet much of this debate has been difficult to frame, with exact details of staffing numbers, cost and output of these publications varying between authority.

In London, Andrew Gilligan suggested that local authorities in the city employed more staff writers than the capital’s newspapers.

This week some more stats can be added to the picture:

Press Gazette reports that Tower Hamlets’ Borough Council paper, East End Life, will need an extra £400,000 of tax payers’ money to keep it going.

According to a mid-year budget report from the authority, the freesheet is suffering from a £396,000 shortfall in advertising for the current financial year.

Deputy leader of the council, Joshua Peck, reportedly told the East London Advertiser that this lack of ad revenue would be made up for with cuts to the authority’s communications budget.

Add to this HoldtheFrontPage’s report on the cost of East End Life, which states:

“A previous investigation by the Advertiser showed that public-sector organisations paid a total of £980,000 to advertise in East End Life, making the true cost to the public purse £1.1 million a year.

“An alternative budget put forward by Tory councillor Tim Archer earlier in the year suggested the council could save £670,000 or 1pc off the average council tax, by scrapping the paper and taking out advertising with the Advertiser instead.”

Elsewhere, plans for a new TV station launched by Carmarthenshire Council (link spotted via Jon Slattery’s blog) have come under criticism.

According to a report on, the station would cost £30,000 a year to run. In a move to fund the new station, the authority is planning to drop one of its bi-monthly news magazines, which currently costs more than £114,000 to produce and distribute.

Industry groups have called on the Audit Commission to investigate the impact of local council newspapers on the regional media industry, as part of the government’s recommendations to the commission in the Digital Britain report. But the commission said such an assessment should be made by the Office of Fair Trading.

The commission will however review all aspects of council communications including press offices, publications, websites and expenditure on advertising jobs.

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Darlington Councillor: Council newspapers and a ‘one-eyed’ local press

August 26th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

(via HoldtheFrontPage)

Labour councillor for Haughton West, Nick Wallis, responds to comments made by Northern Echo editor Peter Barron about the impact of council newspapers on the local press.

Wallis says he isn’t sure council budget cutting will inevitably lead to the closure of local authority publications (much criticised by the local media for their impact on advertising revenues and local democratic coverage).

“A key point is that a lot of local newspapers, do not operate like the Echo which is broadly fair in its treatment of news stories. It’s a bum rap if whatever you do, no matter how well, the local paper slags you off as ‘loony left’ because of the general political bias of the media group. It’s precisely the one-eyed nature of a lot of the local press that generated the growth of council magazines, because local authorities wanted to talk directly to their residents, and avoid the hostile spin continually imposed by media,” writes Wallis.

However, he later adds that councils should do more to support local media and encourage a ‘strong, independent local press’.

“At the same time, local papers have to accept that councils have the right to communicate directly with their residents, and not always have to have their news reflected through the prism of the paper,” he says.

Full post at this link…

See also: ‘Council newspapers: a disaster for democracy’

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Journalism Daily: Council newspapers, INMA/OPA event and more editorial outsourcing

August 13th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism Daily is trialling a new service via the Editors’ Blog: a daily round-up of all the content published on the site.

We hope you’ll find it useful as a quick digest of what’s gone on during the day (similar to our e-newsletter) and to check that you haven’t missed a posting.

We’ll be testing it out for a couple of weeks, so you can subscribe to the feed for the Journalism Daily here.

Let us know what you think – all feedback much appreciated.

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