Regional newspapers are “better placed” to explain government politics, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has claimed.
He also revealed he is a “passionate believer” in what local papers do, and believes their power is “growing rather than diminishing”.
He’s offering his support during a time when the regional press seems to be doing anything but growing. Regional publishers such as Newsquest and Northcliffe Media are making heavy cuts to their operations – Northcliffe announcing staff cuts in November last year, and Newsquest battling against beleaguered staff as it relocates local operations and makes job cuts – as readership levels continue to fall.
But Clegg supported his comments, made at the annual Newspaper Conference lunch held at Parliament, by saying: “You’ve got more readers, and crucially you have rates of trust in what you produce, which is the envy of many other parts of the media.
“How you commercialise that in a world in which commercial advertising revenues are restricted and public advertising revenues have certainly been very severely restricted, I understand, is tricky and I think you’re going through a transition period.
“But the basic building blocks of a vibrant and sustainable regional newspaper industry seem to me ever firmer than they were in the past.”
The coalition government has faced criticism for its inability to explain controversial policies in the voting public’s best interest – a failure that some cite as the cause of a series of attention-grabbing protests against higher education fees and budgetary cuts.
Regional papers have also expressed their dislike for local councils launching their own freesheets, paid for with tax-payers money, which have added further competition to an intensely tight market. On that point, Clegg assured those gathered that the government will “honour our commitment” to rein these in.
(Source: Press Gazette)