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Local News Services

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

We intend to secure the future of local and regional news through new regional news consortia, starting with pilots in Wales, Scotland and the Tyne Tees and Border region. Last week, the Government announced the successful bidders that will go through to the next stage of the process. We do not agree with those who appear to believe that the market alone can secure the future of high quality regional news, which is greatly valued by both the public and Members of this House.

Local newspapers, such as The Bolton News, face increasing competition from other media sources. What can my right hon. Friend do to ensure that Government advertising is steered towards these vital local sources?

The first thing that I would say to my hon. Friend is that local newspapers and local newspaper groups have warmly welcomed the Government’s proposals for the new regional news consortia. Many local newspaper groups are involved in bidding for some of the pilots to which I have just referred. I have some sympathy with his point about the impact of local government free sheets and their advertising on local newspapers. He might have noticed that we announced in December, just before Christmas, that we would continue to require local authorities to advertise in paid-for newspapers. The Department for Communities and Local Government is undertaking a review of the publicity code for local authorities, in which we have made our opinions quite clear.