Local Press

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Ashok Kumar Ashok Kumar Labour, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 11:00 am, 20th January 2009

All I can say to my hon. Friend is that I am sure that there is a lot of innovation in different parts of the country. However, I am only highlighting what is happening in my area. All sorts of new ideas have been tried, but the local press is still facing difficulties. Well done to the Leicester Mercury for the progress that it has made, but not everybody can do the same thing. I know that opportunities are there, but I am trying to highlight what is happening on my patch, because it is highly serious.

In my area, regional news means coverage from southern Scotland down to Scarborough compressed into about 20 minutes' airtime. Radio is little better, excepting licence-fee-paid BBC local radio. Now most independent local radio news coverage outside the BBC is little more than national agency feed from the Press Association read out over the airwaves.

As hon. Members have mentioned, we must not forget the internet. The internet was—admittedly, some years ago—seen as a new and free open house for local news and comment, but most local blogs and comment sites have become a means for those who merely shout the loudest to express their views. So we have a paradox: people want local news, but increasingly the only in-depth and reliable coverage comes from our existing local titles, which are currently under threat.