MPs debated the future of national and local newspapers in, in the Commons, this week.
A common theme among many of the contributors was the damaging role they felt subsidised council newspapers play in undermining privately-owned newspapers which need to make a profit. Forward, in June this year.suspended publication of its own paper,
The minister responding to the debate was culture minster Sion Simon,MP for Birmingham Erdington.
I won't publish his comments here as he was responding to speeches made by other MPs, and his remarks don't make sense without reading the original speeches. However, you can see the whole thing for yourself at Hansard.
The other West Midlands MP to take part in the debate was Lorely Burt, MP for and a Lib Dem spokeswoman on business issues. I don't think I'll comment on what she said. Here is her speech:
"The news has been defined as something that people do not want us to see. All who have spoken in the debate have been at the difficult end of that. The Birmingham Post required all local MPs to pre-publish their expenses. One or two MPs were rather reticent to do so, but we nevertheless complied. That shows the power of the local press. Local papers, such as the Solihull News and the Solihull Times, publish what our MPs in my area have been up to, but many are not totally comfortable with that.
"The important thing is that local newspapers should report on councillors' grubby dealings. Council-run papers may publish the local news and the variety of other things described this afternoon, but they do not contain any of that hard news. They publish only what they want us to see. That is why I agree with the hon. Member for(Mr. Slaughter).
"It is clear that the industry is in trouble. It has been in trouble for some time-long before the recession started. Thegroup of newspapers has shrunk; on 2 July, it was announced that nine newspapers and 120 jobs in the west midlands would be lost. Staffing complements have been cut by all local papers, and advertising has dropped by 40 per cent. over the past two years and is still falling. Local newspapers are in competition with the internet for advertising, and the internet steals their local and regional news stories-another problem that needs to be addressed.
"Regional TV is no longer local, and the regions seem to be expanding hugely. The only repository of truly local news is therefore the local, with regional additions. That is what we want, and that is what we need to keep. What is the solution? We have discussed mergers and the "Digital Britain" report, and I look forward to the Audit Commission inquiry. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister commented on that. What about collaboration? Why not use local reporters, jointly engaged by regional TV and radio? We would then have the best of all worlds."