MP speaks out for the Evening PostBy Chine Mbubaegbu
March 23, 2009
Reading East MP Rob Wilson says local authorities should get behind their local newspapers.
His appeal comes two weeks after the Guardian Media Group announced it would be cutting jobs at Surrey & Berkshire Media and the Evening Post would move to a bi-weekly paper.
In a Commons debate on local and regional news last Thursday, he said the changes would have an impact on the wider community.
He urged local authorities to offer support and better understanding to local papers to enable them to survive.
He said: “I believe the public sector has a role to play, particularly with regard to advertising, of course in circumstances where that represents the best value.”
Mr Wilson added: “Local newspapers give councils, hospitals and the police, for example, an enormous amount of positive and free publicity, but those organisations have been switching their marketing and advertising spend to glossy in-house publications, recruitment websites and their own websites.
“I think that Reading borough council’s glossy magazine costs about £60,000 a year, from memory, and it is read by probably 100 people in the borough.
“Taxpayer-funded organisations have a duty to get best value, spending their money wisely.
“Why print their own magazine when two perfectly good local newspapers exist to communicate exactly the same information?
“It makes no economic sense at all.
“In these difficult times, a two-way partnership with the public sector needs to be encouraged and established in which editorial content is financed through recruitment and public notice advertising.
“It is much better value for money and keeps local newspapers going.”
He said: “Local newspapers are incredibly important to local communities. A local newspaper can act as the glue that binds communities together.
“For example, local charities, voluntary organisations, sports clubs and many other organisations rely on their local newspapers to support everything from fundraising to recruiting new members or volunteers.”
He also called on the Government to change the law regarding media monopolies in towns and cities.
Speaking specifically about the situation in Reading, Mr Wilson told the Commons: “The Evening Post is one of only three regional newspapers to have increased its circulation over the past year, so it is very disappointing that it faces these cuts.
“It has a good team – I know the editor, Andy Murrill, well, and although politically we differ markedly, I know that he is a very good editor who cares deeply and passionately about Reading and its people.
“His newspaper reflects his own view that being involved in and supporting the diversity of the town is essential to both the present and the future of the town.
“My constituency is a very diverse area with many different ethnic groups and religious creeds.
“Relations across those groups are good precisely because the newspapers in the town, especially the Evening Post, have taken such a positive approach to building understanding and good relationships.
“Andy Murrill deserves enormous credit for the part that he has played in that.”