Former Fleet Street editor and professor of journalism Roy Greenslade has criticised plans to introduce a new local authority publicity code, which places restrictions on the frequency of council publications.
Commenting on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s announcement that limits council publications to a maximum of four a year he said: “It is disappointing that they have done this without proper research. It is doubly disappointing that they have not taken on board other views by restricting councils to quarterly publications.”
Professor Greenslade, former editor of the Daily Mirror and professor of journalism at City University, recently backed LGcomms’s calls for an independent review into the effects of council publications on local newspapers to tackle the issue of perceived ‘competing’ council publications.
They highlight that fewer than six authorities across the country have sought to publish regular council ‘newspapers’ and these are not representative of what most authorities produce.
In a joint letter to the DCLG, LGcomms and Professor Greenslade, warned that the draft code could penalise the majority of ‘good councils’ and jeopardise effective communications between them and residents.
In the letter Professor Greenslade offers to help find a solution to the problem by heading up an independent review aimed at addressing this specific issue. Findings would be reported back within three months to ensure any regulation is founded on a solid evidence base.
In December, Professor Greenslade told a House of Commons select committee that “no data exists” to support the view of the Newspaper Society that council publications are damaging local newspapers. He added that the proposed codes are “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
Writing in his Guardian column, Professor Greenslade warned: “The government is in danger of preventing councils - especially in areas where papers are thin on the ground - from telling voters what is happening. That was surely not the intention. The code needs reconsideration.”
LGcomms outlined the organisation’s concerns in relation to the code in December at a House of Commons select committee.