....................... what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream. **
In today's Times ...
... the story:
Legislation will ban ‘Pravda-style propaganda’Council-run newspapers that offer householders a rose-tinted view of their local authorities are to be outlawed, the Government has pledged. The papers, called “town hall Pravdas” by critics, are distributed free and are said to be undermining independent local newspapers by competing for advertising.
The Government’s local authority publicity code stipulates that councils must not publish newspapers in direct competition with the local press and that council publications should not appear more than four times a year.
Tower Hamlets Council in East London spends £1.2 million a year on East End Life, a weekly paper that competes directly with the independent, 150-year-old East London Advertiser. In March, one edition published six articles with pictures of the mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and more than 1,000 words of his comments and views.
The Newspaper Society, the trade body for local newspapers, said that at least 45 councils were publishing newspapers in defiance of the code. Of these, 21 are Labour-controlled, 15 Conservative and three Liberal Democrat.
The Government said that legislation proper newspaper. “You don’t have to have your own Pravda to get the message across,” he said.
The Newspaper Society welcomed the plan but suggested that it might be too late for some independent papers struggling to survive. “It is vital that this unfair competition be stopped as a matter of urgency.”
Tower Hamlets council said that it raised £1.18 million in advertising income from East End Life last year and aimed to run it at “net nil cost”. A spokesman said that the legislation “might be considered disproportionate government action and not in the spirit of localism”. “to protect local commercial newspapers from unfair competition from municipal publications” would be introduced in May next year and become law by April 2014.
Bob Neill, the Local Government Minister, told The Times that some council papers seemed to be deliberately trying to drive independent local papers out of business, and described East End Life as an “objectionable use of taxpayers’ money”.
Mr Neill acknowledged that councils had a duty to inform residents about local services, but said that some authorities were using that as “a smokescreen” to publish pro-council material in the guise of a proper newspaper. You don't have to have your own Pravda to get the message across he said.
The Newspaper Society welcomed the plan but suggested that it might he too late for some independent papers struggling to survive, it is vital that this unfair competition be stopped as a matter of urgency.
Tower Hamlets council said that it raised £1.8 million in advertising income from East End Life last year and aimed to run it at "net nil cost". A spokesman said that the legislation "might be considered disproportionate government action and not in the spirit of localism".
... by Ben Webster Media Editor (6 July 2012).
To get a feel for Tower Hamlets newspaper try the link, it takes a few seconds to load the reader, there can be no doubt its a real weekly newspaper, when I compare it with our local weekly in Caerphilly I feel a certain envy.
But the questions raised ...
.. should local authorities be restricted to a statutory maximum frequency of publications.
.. should local authorities be restricted to public service information only publications.
...are irrelevant when we ask the question:
.. should local authorities engage in business of any kind ?
.. even to the extent of offering subsidies to businesses.
.. or is it an expression of the will of the electorate when an authority engages in such activities.
.. and if it is the will of the people then should the Local Government Minister "butt out" in deference to democracy.I tend to believe he should ..................... butt out that is.
** .... Buttercup to Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore.