Local newspapers need Government aid to help them survive, an MP has told Ministers.
Jim Cunningham (Lab Coventry South) said the Treasury should subsidise local media because they provide a valuable community service.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said the Government may have taken local newspapers “for granted” but did not respond directly to calls for Government funding. Instead, he said Ministers would work with the newspaper industry to examine whether commercial news organisations could work with the BBC.
Mr Burnham is also to attend a summit organised by backbench MPs affiliated to the National Union of Journalists, where he will discuss the problems the local newspaper industry faces with editors and council leaders. One of the concerns industry figures have raised is councils are increasingly placing adverts on websites or in self-published newspapers, depriving them of a traditional source of advertising revenue.
Mr Burnham said a Government report due out later this year would contain “clear proposals on this important topic”. A draft release of the report included proposals to bring the BBC and local newspapers together.
Mr Cunningham said: “I appreciate there is to be a summit on the future of the newspaper industry, but does my he realise the rationalisation process has been going on for about two years?”
He added: “The process has been going on for a long time in the West Midlands, and it requires a little more than a summit. Why cannot the newspaper industry be treated like any other industry? The Government have gone out of their way to give the motor car industry large sums of taxpayers’ money. Why do they not take a good look at the newspaper industry at the same time?
“Many local people – particularly pensioners and those who are housebound – depend on their local newspapers as much as they depend on benefits.”
Mr Burnham told him: “I agree we may have taken local papers for granted for a little too long. We all know from our constituencies how important they are to the quality of local debate and information, and it is high time the House devoted some of its time to considering them.”