Written evidence submitted by Councillor
Mark Loveday, Hammersmith & Fulham Borough Council
Hammersmith & Fulham Council believes
in a thriving and independent media. However, in parts of inner
London there is simply no local media. Our two local newspapers
(both owned by Trinity Mirror) are the Hammersmith & Fulham
Chronicle and the Fulham Gazette series. They have
a paid-for circulation of just 1,500 out of around 180,000 residents.
This situation is not new. Their combined circulation has been
in decline for many years (see below) and there is no evidence
the decline owes anything to the Council publications.
Trinity Mirror does not invest in these
publicationsthere is presently one part-time news reporter
(based outside the borough) for both titles. The local titles
are effectively wraparound editions of out of borough publications
with only a few pages of local content.
In common with most large unitary authorities,
the Council has distributed a regular free publication to residents
for a number of years. Its predecessor, "Hfm Magazine"
was launched by the then Council leader Cllr Andrew Slaughter
(now Andrew Slaughter MP) in January 2004. The Council now produces
"H&F News", a high quality fortnightly newspaper
which accepts significant local advertising.
This is a highly cost-effective way of
communicating with residents. We believe strongly that it is a
good thing to raise advertising revenue to reduce the burden on
local taxpayers. As a result, the cost of H&F News continues
to fallfrom £400k in its previous incarnation HfM
magazine to less than £5,000 last year.
By contrast, the present paid for local
newspapers would be poor value for money for taxpayers. A typical
public notice placed in the Hammersmith & Fulham Chronicle
would cost around £650equivalent to about 52 pence
for every copy sold. The cost of placing that same public notice
in H&F News is £478equating to £0.0062 pence
per copy distributed.
It should also be remembered that there
are statutory requirements for certain public notices to be published
in newspapers which must circulate in the locality (eg planning
and licensing notices). There is a legal risk for authorities
once circulation falls to a low level.
We do not believe that local taxpayers
have an appetite to revert to subsidising monopoly private newspaper
ownersespecially when the public shows little appetite
to purchase their products.
H&F News has high readership
and high reader approval
because it is a product that residents enjoy reading.
It is worth noting that there are already
many statutory restrictions governing local authority newspapers,
both in content and commercial practices. The newspaper cannot
make a profit,
nor can it print anything that affects support for any political
The Council is proud of its newspaper.
It is one of the most successful in the countrycosting
residents almost nothing and delivering a high quality product
which meets local needs. If restrictions were placed on this,
would central government step in to make up the shortfall? The
answer is plainly, "no".
NEWSPAPER CIRCULATION IN HAMMERSMITH &
Mark Loveday is a barrister in private practice, and has
been Cabinet Member for Strategy at LB Hammersmith & Fulham
since May 2006. His previous experience includes work as a newspaper
lawyer (Evening Standard, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Today).
He has a weekly column on legal issues in the Times every Friday.
63% of residents read H&F News, according to the 2009 Media
& Reputation Survey Back
81% of readers say H&F News is informative, according to the
2009 Media & Reputation Survey Back
s.93 of the Local Government Act 2003 Back
s.2 of the Local Government Act 1986 Back
Based on ABC audited circulation figures Back
Between 2003 and 2008 newspapers were not required to
disclose the circulation of individual titles. Back