Written evidence submitted by the Newspaper
1. The Newspaper Society represents the
regional media industry. Its members publish around 1,300 print
titles, 1,200 websites, 450 magazines, 250 ultra
local titles, 45 radio stations and 2 TV services.
2. Britain's local media is reaching
more people than ever across its print, online and broadcast platforms,
delivering trusted local news to 40 million print readers
a week and 24 million web users a month.
3. There is a continuing and growing demand
for the independent and campaigning local news, opinion, comment,
information and advertising, which are uniquely supplied by our
members' regional and local media companies.
4. The industry is developing these services,
in ever evolving forms across ever increasing multi-media platforms,
in order to attract and retain its audience against ever increasing
competition for the advertising which tradionally funded its editorial
and other services.
5. We refer you to the NS website www.newspapersoc.org.uk
which publicises some of the regional, local and ultralocal innovations
and services provided by our members.
6. The industry currently faces an unprecedented
combination of economic and structural challenges. It has explained
to Government and regulators what action is needed now to assure
the future of a lively, vital and relevant regional and local
media. We refer you to our public response to Digital Britain
interim report, also on our website.
7. Urgent changes to the media ownership
controls (Enterprise Act 2000 and Communications Act 2003)
are necessary, in order to allow transfers of regional and local
titles between publishers, as well as mergers of companies.
8. In addition to changes in the substantive
law, the OFT and Competition Commission should improve their approach
and guidance on local media markets and regional media transfers
and mergers. They should recognise the realities of the range
and intensity of competition, both advertising and editorial,
in local media markets.
9. Cross-media ownership controls over local
newspaper/broadcast media should be relaxed and removed.
10. The industry is participating fully
in the OFT/OFCOM/DCMS/BERR reviews under Digital Britain but urgent
action by Government is needed.
11. Regional and local media companies are
keen to explore all opportunities for multi-media regional development
and multi-media markets for their regional and local advertising,
editorial and other content services.
12. They are developing multi-media portfolios
of print, broadcasting, mobile and online services.
13. Regional media companies are interested
in exploring regional media consortia, perhaps best achieved through
an experimental pilot project and are in discussions with a wide
range of other interested media organisations.
14. The Government should engage helpfully
with regional media on strategy and development, enter into a
helpful dialogue with the regional media to minimise any regulatory
problems, especially ownership and competition issues, explore
public service funding options and promote helpful development
of the technical infrastructure, broadband roll out and spectrum
15. The regional press needs to have confidence
that mutual benefits will be obtained if it develops closer relationships
or partnerships with the BBC. To that end it argues for the need
for better governance, tighter controls and improved enforcement
over a range of the BBC's activities, whether licence fee funded
or commercial, which could or already have an adverse market impact
upon the regional press.
16. The regional press believes this should
include a fundamental review of the BBC's governance, licence
fee and regional publicly funded activities.
17. Government departments, which are already
encouraged and expected to connect with local communities by engaging
with local and regional media editorially, should be instructed
to look equally favourably upon local and regional media, rooted
within those communities, for advertising campaigns, recognising
the unique public value, trusted environment and effectiveness
such spend offers, with resulting benefits to the local community.
18. The Government should not bring forward
legislation to require relaxation of any statutory requirements
for publication of public notices in local newspapers. It should
continue to include such requirements in new legislation. This
not only alerts and informs those interested, but also encourages
and maintains openness and accountability, while also supporting
the local media which are the cornerstones of local communities.
19. The Government should issue guidance
to local authorities:
to discontinue publication of local government
newspapers and media services in competition with the independent
commercial media (see www.newspapersoc.org.uk);
to stop carrying third-party advertising
in their print publications or other platforms eg websites; and
local authorities and public sector bodies
should be encouraged to place recruitment and other advertising
in the more effective independent local and regional media.
20. The Government should not alter the
current UK legal framework or do anything which undermines the
intellectual property rights of publishers. Government policy
should not constrain the ability of parties to negotiate terms
on which regional media companies choose to make their content
available or charge for it, but should encourage and support industry
and market-led solutions.
21. It is regional media companies that
invest in the journalism which provides the basis of the rest
of the media's news output. News gathering, the raw material for
any media organisation, is especially expensive. The industry
has therefore suggested that the Government should urgently explore
in consultation with publishers effective ways in which Google
and others should be prevented from profiting from third party
content, without recompense to, or the consent from, the media
companies who generated the material upon which they have built
22. The Government should not extend the
legal deposit regime or encourage the British Library to exploit
the multi-media content generated by regional media companies
and the audience for it, to the commercial detriment of such companies.
23. If the Government wishes to provide
funding for media training, then the industry would prefer direct
funding for journalism training in traditional and digital skills,
for new entrants and for skills development of existing employees,
supplied direct to media companies and to the National Council
for the Training of Journalists that oversees training for the
24. The Government should not create new
direct or indirect controls over print and online content, through
implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services directive, or
under the guise of "media literacy" initiatives, or
held out as a condition for over due reform of the media ownership
laws or practice of the competition authorities.
25. The Government should promote freedom
of expression, media freedom, open government, freedom of information
and open justice. For example, reform of the UK's over restrictive
libel and privacy laws is needed. There should be a reduction
in restrictions upon access to and reporting the civil, criminal
and coroners' courts, instead of new ones imposed. There is particular
need for the immediate reform of conditional fee arrangements
and costs regime in publication proceedings that already have
a costly and chilling effect on the regional press.
26. The Government should implement the
"freedom of expression" audit, promised by the Prime Minister
and Lord Chancellor, which would entail prior detailed consultation
with media organisations, before legislative proposals are put
forward that can have adverse and unintended impact upon media