Local & Regional Newspapers
July 15, 2009
Mark made the following interventions in a debate on the problems facing local newspapers.
Mark Field – I have some sympathy with the point made by Paul Flynn. I have been in touch with a number of my local newspapers, many of which cover not just Westminster but other central London boroughs, and the message that has come through loud and clear is that they worry intensely about council-run newspapers effectively stepping in their way. I can see that that is quite an issue. But is not the independence that Mark Williams mentioned largely illusory in many parts of the country, not least because local newspapers rely on local authority advertising, particularly recruitment advertising? Is not that one reason why there is less independence than in the broadcasting world?
Mark Field – I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again; he is generous. He has talked about new digital media. Let us be honest and say that we—all hon. Members in this Chamber—are unusual, being relatively middle-aged and big consumers of newspapers. The generation younger than us will barely look at a newspaper at all, and they regard digital media as the focus of attention for particular local stories. Although in central London we have some good online offerings from local newspapers, the big elephant in the room is that they face competition from the BBC, which benefits from a £3.6 billion annual subsidy, building up an impressive, active and interactive media operation. But that is the real problem. The next generation, who will not necessarily consume their newspapers in anything other than a digital form, is now finding that there is no point going online to see what the local newspaper has to say and will find quite effective local news through the BBC online offering, which has the benefit of significant public endorsement and funding.