Written evidence submitted by Manchester
Manchester City Council welcomes this opportunity
to respond to this inquiry and would be prepared to make representations
personally to the committee. The nominated spokesperson for Manchester
City Council would be Cllr Jim Battle, Deputy Leader, who would
be available to comment further on these issues.
Manchester City Council values the contribution
that the local media can make to the wellbeing of its community.
The Council is calling for a review of legislation and guidance
to enable local authority support for independent local media
where this will contribute to the economic or social well being
of their communities.
1.0 The impact on local media of recent and
future developments in digital convergence, media technology and
changing consumer behaviour;
1.1 Trends are very difficult to demonstrate
given the current recession, and it depends what is defined as
local media. Manchester local media has suffered some structural
decline from advertising displacement to "new media"
although print and radio seemed to have adapted better to this
1.2 Web advertising opportunities that have
been generated by local media could be better capitalising on
the revenue potential. Often online media is used as part of the
negotiation for press advertising and is an add on that sometimes
devalues this channel.
1.3 It would be fair to conclude that digital
developments have lead to slight dissection of media budgets in
2.0 The impact of newspaper closures on independent
local journalism and access to local information;
2.1 The impact of local newspaper closures
would be harmful for Manchester across many dimensions. Job cuts
have already happened in local papers with a centralisation approach
to the news management effecting the South Manchester Report and
New East Manchester Advertiser and resulting in pressures on the
Manchester Evening News. In total the MEN group axed 150 jobs
across their papers and 41 jobs from Channel M and two local
shop units/offices have been vacated in North and South Manchester,
as well as across the region with a centralised approached in
total eight locations across Greater Manchester have been closed.
The job threat for the MEN group is a further 150-200 jobs
in the MEN, Channel M and related services.
2.2 Job losses are not the only impact.
Local journalism at ward level will be affected as journalists
are no longer specialist but generalists across bigger geographical
areas and are not located within the heart of the local catchment
areas affecting the "local voice" and representation
of local people.
2.3 Manchester local papers have also been
reduced in size with less pages and less local content in the
pagination again effecting the opportunity for local representation.
2.4 If the local papers were to close altogether
then the impact for residents on local information and the knock
on impact on neighbourliness would be dramatic. . The media have
helped communicate and inform residents in regeneration areas
of the progress being made, supported the stimulation of the housing
market and helped to generate a sense of community . The local
way of life, local issues, what is happening in their area, local
celebration and up coming events would be lost. This could impact
what places and spaces could mean for communities and affect quality
of life in their area. The importance of local media in promoting
awareness and debate about local issues is critical to daily and
weekly newspapers. This has become recently an increasing significant
matter given the need for balance and informed coverage in light
of the existence of heightened extreme political activity.
2.5 As a City Council we value the effectiveness
of local media and if this element of marketing collateral was
no longer there we would have to consider using alternative mediums,
including possibly more expensive tools to deliver messages. We
receive over 15,000 mentions in local media in relation to
PR activity, a very cost effective tool to disseminate information.
Without this outlet messages would have to be issued via outdoor
advertising, leaflets or direct mail resulting in more costly
options and with less editorial weight.
3.0 How to fund quality local journalism;
3.1 Local journalism/local papers have been
affected by structural change and an economic down turn with reduced
advertising revenues. Costs of production have also increased
squeezing margins. Some of the structural change will continue
eg motors and recruitment to online mediums but other sectors
can remain robust as the economy recovers. However, decline is
likely to continue long term hence efficiencies and reviewed practices
3.2 Local authorities may wish to consider
supporting local journalism/media using their powers under Section
2 of the Local Government Act 2000 (LGA 2000) to do
anything which they consider is likely to promote or improve the
economic, social or environmental well being of their area eg
financial assistance to safeguard employment and/or ensure the
availability of information to the local community or promote
democracy. However, local authorities cannot rely on this power
to do anything which they are prohibited from doing by any other
legislation. Section 2 of the Local Government Act 1986 (LGA
1986) prohibits local authorities from publishing material which
in whole or in part appears designed to affect public support
for a particular political party and from giving financial or
other assistance to another person for such publication. We are
concerned that the provision may be interpreted in such a way
as to prevent local authorities from giving assistance for non
political purposes to the local press or media where the aim is
to promote the economic or social well being of the area. However
committed the local press is to balanced reporting, it could often
be considered to be in breach of the strict test in Section 2 as
the local press frequently publish material which in whole or
in part appears designed to affect public support for a particular
party when they publish the views of a party or politicians in
relation to an issue, letters and opinion columns. We believe
that there should be an exemption from the provisions in Section
2 LGA 1986 for assistance for the press, other media
and publishers for particular purposes such as those under Section
2 of the LGA 2000 subject to suitable safeguards to
maintain freedom of editorial control. This could be achieved
by way of amendment to Section 2 of the LGA 1986 or
by way of an order under Section 5 of the LGA 2000. This
would allow appropriate investment to be made and partnership
agreements to be developed without undermining media independence.
3.3 The City Council has already made representations
in this respect in its response to the Consultation on the Code
of Recommended Practice on Local Government Publicity to CLG.
It is also recognised that any assistance to local press must
be state aid compliant.
4.0 The appropriateness and effectiveness
of print and electronic publishing initiatives undertaken directly
by public sector bodies at the local level;
4.1 There are some gaps in the local market
at presentthe local weekly papers do not go to all households
in Manchester, they cover about 50%.
4.2 As a result Manchester City Council
publishes one print mechanic, a quarterly newspaper (Manchester
People) which is distributed by hand to all doors in Manchester,
to compensate for our current local newspapers who cannot achieve
this complete distribution. We also do once a year a Student Manchester
People newspaper to welcome our transient population. The aim
of these papers is not to utilise them as a cheaper advertising
source for legal notices but as an information guide on major
initiatives and events that have happened or are happening in
Manchester. This is seen as a supplementary not alternative solution
to our local press and the editorial weight is obviously lacking.
We feel this is appropriate.
4.3 We do not think it is appropriate to
seek local sponsorship to support local initiatives which would
achieve little more but reduce revenues for the rest of industry.
Where City Councils have developed a rival weekly newspaper to
their local paper in order to avoid obligatory advertising costs
this has just further undermined local newspapers, weakening this
valuable asset for neighbourhoods.
5.0 The role and effects of search engines
and online content aggregators on local media;
5.1 The digital age has impacted local media
but local media has been in decline for many decades and other
changes have also affected local media both on and offline such
as free commuting papers (the Metro).
5.2 Search engines are a fast and efficient
way of gathering information but are not an alternative to a paper
however local media needs to adapt to ensure a news appetite can
be fulfilled in the online space. The immediacy of online tools
does appeal to society's appetite for breaking news and the latest
information and as citizen journalism grows the more involved
online participants can become. However, the integrity of journalism
such as general accuracy to the extreme of slander is less marshalled
in the digital environments and a concern for public bodies.
5.3 Manchester City Council feels its local
media adapted, maybe a little slowly, to the digital move but
has a credible brand and an opportunity to develop its online
offer and we are investigating ways to work together to achieve
6.0 The future of local radio and television
6.1 Local radio seems to be fairing well
in the challenging and changing media environment and in the Manchester
region has a segmented approach matching audience type to content
and has seen new stations enter the airways (Manchester Xfm).
Again the recession will have impact on advertising revenues but
so far not to the detriment of jobs or so as to result in closures.
However, local community radios can be restricted and impinged
due to the complication of applying for a licence. The likes of
All fm and Wythenshawe fm are plugging communities issues in a
very accessible way that meets their residents' needs.
6.2 Television news for the region has seen
more impact with job losses at Granada and Channel M. Again rationalisation
has been required with the decrease of advertising revenues.
7.0 The desirability of changes to the regulatory
framework for print and electronic local media, including cross-media
ownership and merger regulations;
7.1 Manchester City Council would welcome
deregulation on two counts. Firstly the opportunity for cross
media ownership and the potential for merger deals to maximise
8.0 The opportunities and implications of
BBC partnerships with local media;
8.1 Partnerships with the BBC need to be
seen in the context of commissioning and the regulatory framework
as it will impact upon ITV and in particularly their regional
obligations. The demise of regional news as budgets have been
cut and redundancies are apparent in TV as they are in print.
The recently published Digital Britain Report
recognises that the costs of ITV's public service licences exceed
the benefits and action needs to be taken to bring the two in
line. The current cost of ITV's regional news services in England,
the Borders and Wales is around £55 million per annum.
Regional news is ITV's greatest PSB cost and
is unsustainable in its current form.
OptionsPartnership with the BBC
At the suggestion of the Government, the BBC
and ITV spent several months discussing potential ways in which
the two broadcasters could work together in a partnership aimed
at securing a long term future for regional news on ITV1 by
After months of negotiation, the savings to
ITV translated into £1.5 million in 2011 rising
incrementally to around £7 million by 2016. This is
not sufficient to keep ITV regional news on air.
Furthermore, if the partnership is to go ahead,
ITV would either have to move its main regional news bulletins
out of peak time, or pre-record them. Either proposal would pose
a risk to the quality of the ITV regional news service.
We are therefore pleased that the Government's
Digital Britain Review endorses Ofcom's proposal for the sustainable
provision of plurality in nations and regions news. This would
entail using a small proportion of the licence fee paid to independent
producers of regional news with ITV providing the slots in its
While the BBC opposes these, its alternative
partnership proposal has yet to deliver sufficient value to sustain
a viable regional news service on ITV1.
9.0 The extent of plurality required in local
9.1 Choice is important and the digital
age is supporting a plethora of media platforms to gather information.
There is also a need for rationalisation and occasionally that
process consolidates choice in order to survive.
10.0 Incentives for investment in local content;
10.1 Manchester City Council would welcome
the opportunity to invest and investment support for local content
and drive some of the key attributes of our community strategy
and ensure our residents and businesses felt informed. However,
we consider that the S2 LGA1986 needs to be addressed
as referred to in paragraph 3 of this submission.
10.2 Neighbourliness, social inclusion,
and the promotion of Manchester's multicultural place are integral
to our Community Strategy and indeed government policy. Local
media allows us to demonstrate our inspiring people, the opportunities,
promote a greater sense of participation and well-being. Regeneration
programmes hinge on providing places where social inclusion is
strengthened, crime and disorder reduced and local newspapers
help turn deprived areas around by developing communities and
neighbourhoods where people choose to live. This would be made
much harder to implement without local media.
10.3 A city of successful neighbourhoods
which attract and retain successful people from diverse communities
where people are supported and feel secure is a story worth telling
and local media play a role in binding our people and place together.
11.0 Opportunities for "ultra-local"
11.1 At present we speak to residents via
ward newsletters to provide this "ultra local" information
and there is a void at this level online or via a media service
and we feel this could be beneficial.
12.0 Additional points.
12.1 Manchester City Council would like
to see support to plug gaps in local media as not all our population
gets access to a weekly newspaper that engages them with their