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UK government to meet NUJ to discuss media cuts

4 March 2009

The NUJ is to meet UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham in urgent talks to save local media from the ravages of the recession and the cutbacks and job losses imposed by newspaper publishers and TV companies.

The union is engaged in wide-ranging discussions on the future of the industry and later this month will put its case for strengthening local journalism to Andy Burnham, when he meets the NUJ Parliamentary group.

Answering questions in the commons this week, the Culture Secretary promised to meet the union and said:

"We need to come forward with proposals to ensure that there are high-quality training and media at a local level across all media.
"We need to look afresh at how best to provide local news in future and to consider other ways of working – perhaps local newspapers working with media at a regional level or other possibilities that might include considering the role of regional development agencies and the Learning and Skills Council.
"The time has come for Parliament to take a greater interest in the health of journalism at local level, and particularly in how it might relate to skills and to the health of democracy."

Andy Burnham referred to the reviews being conducted of the regulations on media ownership by the Office of Fair Trading and by Lord Carter of the business department on "Digital Britain", which is expected to make recommendations on developing online news output. Newspaper owners have been lobbying for a loosening of the regulations and proposing various schemes of public subsidy.

The NUJ opposes public money going directly to the media companies that cut resources to the bone to satisfy shareholders and is exploring alternative ways of boosting local media. It is setting up a high-powered Local Media Commission, consisting of leading industry and union figures and academic experts. The Commission will meet in London on 30 March.

Labour MP Denis MacShane, a former President of the NUJ, has called on the Government to convene a newspaper industry summit to "stop the haemorrhage of journalist jobs and the closure on scores of local papers with question marks over the strength and survival of national papers."

Tags: , ownership, local newspapers, broadcasting, newspapers, digital britain, funding, broadcasting, television, government uk, regional development agencies, learning and skills council, online, local media commission, summit