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Local Newspapers

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 13 March 2014

12. What information her Department holds on the number of local newspapers that have closed since May 2010; and what steps she plans to take to support such newspapers. (903027)

The Department does not hold that information, but our local press plays an incredibly valuable role in local communities, and we appreciate the challenges facing the sector. We have a number of policies to support local newspapers.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Does he have a view on the number of local papers that have, like the excellent Scunthorpe Telegraph, since May 2010 moved from being daily newspapers serving their community to being weekly newspapers serving their community? What impact does that have on communities?

I understand that the Scunthorpe Telegraph has made that move and that, as a result, its circulation has gradually risen by a small amount. The Government have restricted the amount of local papers that councils can put out, relaxed media ownership rules, and continued to have statutory notices in local papers, so we do want to support local papers where we can.

Is not one of the big tragedies resulting from the loss of local newspapers the impact on journalistic training and the quality of scrutiny of our councils? Is the Minister having discussions with colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about this important matter?

I acknowledge the hon. Lady’s point that we rely very much on the quality of local journalism to hold local councils to account, and it is important that, where possible, savings are made and money continues to be invested in local journalism. My local newspaper group, which publishes the Oxford Mail and the Herald, tries to invest as much as it can in local journalism because it recognises that that is what sells its papers.