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Local councils should not set out to be mini press barons

PUBLISHED: 17:03 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 14:17 05 October 2010

Dear Denis MacShane, I HEARD your talk about the financing of the local press. I have for some years been concerned about local authorities producing their own newspapers and running statutory classified advertisements, thus starving the local press

Open letter from retired Australian newspaper correspondent Leo Chapman, now living in London, to MP Denis MacShane (former junior Government minister for Europe until 2005):

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Dear Mr MacShane,

I HEARD your interesting talk about the financing of the local press. I have for some years been concerned about local authorities producing their own newspapers and running statutory classified advertisements in them, thus starving the local press.

I enclose copies of the Islington Now (monthly), Hackney Today (monthly) and East End Life (Tower Hamlets, weekly). They contain particularly large amounts of statutory advertising that should really be in the local newspapers.

East End Life is quite an egregious example as it sets out specifically to compete with the East London Advertiser, with its quite large staff listed on page 2.

Councils should not be publishing newspapers (Pravdas) when the commercial press is available for classified ads in the traditional way or to buy space to display larger announcements. It is duplication, unjustifiable because it purveys one-sided reporting.

I suggest seeing Hazel Blears, Communities & Local Government Secretary, to find out whether she has the power to direct councils to stop aspiring to be mini-press barons, that they be told not to publish when there is a local newspaper which can print their statutory classified and display advertisements. As the Government provides councils with 80 per cent of their finance, she possibly can direct that it not be spent in unnecessary press duplication.

With an election looming, more advertising (in the local press) should allow more editorial space and thus more room for electoral coverage, at the very least.

Leo Chapman

(NUJ life member, former London correspondent for The Australian national daily, in Britain 30 years, now retired)

Dufferin Street, Finsbury, London.

Cc: East London Advertiser, Hackney Gazette, Islington Gazette, Islington Tribune

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Biased East End Life’ refuses to print alternative budget, Advertiser Website Letters, March 16.

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