3 SEPTEMBER 2012: Release time immediate
The Government has announced new laws on the publication of council-owned newspapers, following representations by the Chartered Institute of Journalists.
Local Government Minister Bob Neill MP has written to the CIoJ pledging to put compliance with the Publicity Code on a statutory basis. At present the code is only voluntary and many local authorities have been ignoring the guidelines and publishing more frequently than the allowed four times a year. When the changes come into force next year, councils will be obliged by law to comply with the code.
Mr Neill was responding to a report sent to him by the CIoJ about the effects of council newspapers on the local newspaper industry. The report formed part of the evidence submitted by the Institute to an all-party Parliamentary group looking into the crisis in local newspapers.
Amanda Brodie, chairman of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board, who gave evidence to the group at Westminster recently, said: “We are delighted that the Government is to put the code on the statute book, which will mean that councils can no longer ignore it.
“The CIoJ has been campaigning on this issue for a long time. We have watched in anger as council after council has flouted the guidelines which were put forward to protect our flagging local newspaper industry from Council Tax-payer subsidised attacks on their advertising revenue and circulation.
“Most of these so-called newspapers are full of council propaganda, and it is high time they were reined in.”
Mr Neill told the Institute in his letter: “The Government agrees that local newspapers have a vital role to play in providing the public with the information they need to hold their council to account.
“Last year we strengthened the code by restricting the frequency of publications to ensure local newspapers were not facing unfair competition from council newspapers. However, we are aware that a few councils continue to publish newspapers more frequently than this. We are therefore going to legislate to put compliance with the code on a statutory basis.”
Notes to Editors
1. On July 4 the CIoJ gave evidence on this subject at an all-party parliamentary group meeting, arranged by Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards. The Institute’s statement to the APPG can be found here.
2. 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.