INSTITUTE BACKS PUBLICITY CODE CRACKDOWN
RELEASE DATE: 18 July 2013
GOVERNMENT proposals to limit the publication of local authority publications should be backed in full and made law as soon as possible, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ).
Commenting on the Local Authority and Accountability Bill, which was debated in the House of Lords yesterday, (Wednesday July 17) Amanda Brodie, chairman of the CIoJ’s Professional Practices Board, said: “We fully support Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in his attempts to limit the publication of local authority newspapers to no more than four times a year.
“We are astonished that the NUJ has come out against the proposed legislation, which is aimed at supporting local newspapers, and can only help to safeguard journalists’ jobs. This is not a political issue, as the NUJ seems intent to make it.
“We believe there is no viable alternative to backing the Code with legislation. Many LAs have continued to flout the guidelines, proving they are unwilling to comply voluntarily, and must now be forced to do so.
“The CIoJ has been campaigning vigorously for some time on this issue, and we were proud to be part of the process which led last year to this proposal to put the Publicity Code guidelines on the statute book. We lobbied MPs and made representations to Parliamentary inquiries on this subject.
“Our members have become increasingly concerned at the creeping impact of these town-hall ‘Pravdas’ on local newspapers. These council publications promote their own version of local authority ‘news’ which is often biased in its reporting, giving local residents a skewed version of the facts behind the way their local council is run, and failing to highlight any shortfall in standards.
“Only local media, which is independent of political or other influence, can hold local authorities to account for the way they handle taxpayers’ money. “
Some LAs claim that their own publications can be justified because local papers no longer have the high circulation figures they once did, so advertising in them is not cost-effective.
This is based on a false premise. All local newspapers now have a web presence and increasing use of the internet by all sections of the community means the effective audience of local papers is as high, if not higher, than it has ever been. In addition, many local papers are either free, or have free editions, which are delivered to virtually every home in the local area.
The CIoJ is also pleased that Lord Tope’s amendment, calling for an end to the requirement for councils to publish public notices in local papers, was yesterday (Wednesday) withdrawn.
Ms Brodie added: “Our local papers are an important part of the communities they serve, yet many are struggling to survive financially – they deserve to be supported in every possible way.”
Note to editors:
- Research by GfK for the Newspaper Society found that the reach of local newspapers was much greater than council websites: 67% of the respondents to that survey had read or looked at their local newspaper for at least a couple of minutes within the past seven days, compared with 9% who had viewed their council website. Some 34% of adults questioned had not accessed the internet at all in the last 12 months.
- Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.