Tuesday 28 March 2017

Local News Matters - meeting tonight in Parliament on local media crisis

Tonight, Tuesday 28 March 2017, NUJ members and politicians will come together to discuss the local news crisis in the UK as part of the union's week of action. The event takes place in committee room 12 in parliament at 18.00.

At the event, the NUJ will be launching new research and analysis of the local media crisis. The research was carried out by Dr Gordon Neil Ramsay, deputy director for the centre for the study of media, communication and power at King's College London. Gordon will present the key findings of his research tonight. The other speakers confirmed include Aasma Day, the investigative reporter and lifestyle editor at the Lancashire Post, professor Robert McChesney, Justin Schlosberg from the Media Reform Coalition and NUJ president Tim Dawson.

The report entitled Mapping changes in local news 2015-2017: more bad news for democracy? includes the following key findings:

·         There was a net loss of 9 UK regional newspapers between November 2015 and March 2017, with 22 titles closing and 13 launching.

·         The number of UK local authority districts with no daily local newspaper coverage rose to 273 (of 406 in total).

·         Five UK local authority districts were reduced to single-publisher monopolies, increasing the number of local monopolies to 170 out of 380 in England, Wales and Scotland. Combining the new research with previous data reveals there are 1,103 local newspaper titles in the UK in March 2017.

·         The five largest publishers – Trinity Mirror (226 titles); Johnston Press (213 titles); Newsquest (211); Tindle (126) and Archant (75) account for 77.1 per cent of all local newspapers in the UK. There has been a net reduction of 2.2 per cent from November 2015 to March 2017.

·         There were 30 instances of job cuts announced over a 17-month period involving the loss of 418 jobs. Newsquest, with 12 announcements affecting 139 jobs, led the way, followed by Trinity Mirror (at least 102 jobs) and Johnston Press (100 jobs). In addition to the job cuts, reorganisations affected a further 83 jobs, and there were six newspaper office closures, with journalists often being moved long distances away from the communities they serve.

·         The BBC deal for 150 new local democracy reporters fails to offset the loss of more than 400 journalists from the largest publishers during the same period. The £8m to be spent annually on this scheme will be taken out of the publicly-funded licence and represents a fraction of the combined operating profits of the largest local publisher.

On Thursday 30 March at 13.30 in parliament, MPs will debate the state of the UK’s local media and an early day motion has been tabled calling for sustainable investment in professional local and regional news provision online, in newspapers and on radio and television.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, said: “Journalism is a pillar of democracy and this survey should be of major concern to anyone who cares about local, regional or national government. The stark decline in journalism is a direct result of disinvestment in editorial resources. This survey points to a deep crisis in local and regional news provision. There is an urgent need for government and media organisations to halt that decline, to examine ways of developing sustainable media business models operating in the interests of democracy and the public interest. The price of a continuous decline is too high for citizens to pay.”

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