THE Government has restated its commitment to clamping down on council newspapers and creating an environment that supports local media after the News Media Association (NMA) raised concerns about an apparent retreat from its position.
The NMA wrote to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid following recent reports that Government directions to Waltham Forest council and Hackney council to cease publishing their fortnightly newspapers with effect from 6 February 2018 had been withdrawn.
“Having campaigned long and hard against council newspapers, we are deeply concerned that the Government may be retreating from its clear position on closing down these publications, known as town hall Pravdas, which have been exposed as nothing more than pernicious propaganda and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” NMA deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson wrote.
In a written response, Rishi Sunak, Minister for Local Government, said the Government was considering “the further representations” made by the councils but remained committed to limiting the frequency of council papers.
He wrote: “The Government’s position regarding council newspapers has not changed. It remains, as far as is practicable, to create an environment which is as conducive as possible to the flourishing of independent and politically-free local media, which is an essential element of any effectively operating local democracy.“
It is to further this policy that the Government has adopted measures to limit the frequency of local authority newspapers.
“In the particular cases of Hackney and Waltham Forest Councils, the department is currently considering the further representations they have made, and I cannot comment further on these cases.”