Government to call local media summit
19 March 2009
The UK government has agreed to call a summit on the future of the regional media – just one day after it was suggested by the NUJ. Barbara Follett, junior culture minister, made the announcement during a debate in the House of Commons today.
The idea had been put forward to cabinet minister Andy Burnham by Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, and members of the union's parliamentary group at a meeting yesterday afternoon.
Jeremy Dear said:
"The meeting with Andy Burnham was very constructive and I am delighted that our suggestion has been picked up so quickly.
"Journalists on regional papers, TV, radio and websites are losing their jobs every day. Papers are closing, local offices are being boarded up.
"The government summit must involve journalists, media owners, and community and co-operative groups. It must actively consider all options for the future of local media."
John McDonnell MP, secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group, said:
"I am really glad that the government has embraced our idea and acted so quickly. We look forward to taking part in the summit."
Speaking after yesterday's meeting Jeremy Dear said:
"Mr Burnham clearly values the role his local papers – the Leigh Journal and the Leigh Reporter – play in holding the community together.
"We told the minister that any government assistance for the media should have conditions guaranteeing jobs and investment in local journalism. Without that it will become a handout for shareholders.
"We also asked him to look at ways of funding new start ups, co-operatives and community media initiatives. Mr Burnham has been a supporter of the Football Supporters Trust and this could be looked at as a model for local media."
The House of Commons was due to debate the jobs crisis in the regional media this morning – after the issue was raised by Greater Manchester MPs opposed to cutbacks by Guardian Media in the county.
More than 70 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion backing the union's concerns about regional journalism.