Government excludes town hall newspapers from press regulations
Council-run newspapers such as Tower Hamlets’ East End Life will not be subjected to government regulations governing conduct, it has emerged.
Guidelines released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show town hall publications will not be captured by the government’s Royal Charter designed to regulate newspapers’ conduct – while their independent equivalents are.
The move has been branded “extraordinary” by Newspaper Society chairman Adrian Jeakings.
A statement issued by the Society added: “Exempting competing council papers from the proposed scheme flies in the face of Lord Justice Leveson’s stated recommendation that it ‘should not provide an added burden to the regional and local press.’
“It is surely wrong in principle and unworkable in practice for a local paper to be put at a disadvantage to a council paper covering the same news in the same area.”
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Malcolm Starbrook, editor of the East London Advertiser and Newham Recorder, added: “This is another example of double-standards being applied to regulating newspapers.
“To leave council newspapers outside the system means the government is imposing unknown costs on newspapers, but leaving outside it publications that serve no other purpose than publicising an authority or a mayor”, he said.
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But government ministers justified the plan by reaffirming their intention to outlaw local authority newspapers.
Tower Hamlets Council was recently singled out for criticism by communities secretary Eric Pickles over its continued publication of East End Life, which he insists contravenes earlier guidelines issued.
A spokesperson for the council said: “As a local authority, being exempt from this system is unlikely to have an impact on the way we communicate with residents.”