Council newspapers: serious threat or red herring?

The Newspaper Society and the National Union of Journalists are at loggerheads over the impact of council funded newspapers.
Yesterday the NS wrote to new Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles asking for a meeting about local authority papers and government advertising practices.
In the letter, NS communications director Lynne Anderson wrote: ‘We would like to arrange a meeting with you as soon as possible to brief you on our members’ specific concerns and to discuss the steps the government plans to take, the type of rules, their likely effectiveness and how quickly these will be imposed, to help ensure that this unfair competition, which has been allowed to develop unchecked and continues to cause real damage to independent local newspapers across the country, can be stopped as a matter of urgency.’
She added that the NS hoped councils would be encouraged to use local media rather than undermine it.
The letter came in response to the new coalition government’s pledge to ‘impose together rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers’.
But, responding to the Queen’s Speech, NUJ president Pete Murray called the opposition to council papers, ‘a dogmatic adherence to a false belief’.
He said: “We are concerned about the new government’s lack of clarity on definitions of so called ‘responsible journalism’ and the dogmatic adherence to the false belief that local authority newspapers represent unfair competition.”

State of Play: What do you think? Council newspapers – a serious threat or a red herring?
Love to hear your views.

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