The Government has asked the newspaper industry to suggest what it role it can play in ‘providing impartial news in the digital age’ and fill the gap created by ITV cutting back its regional news service.
In his interim report on Digital Britain, communications minister Stephen Carter also invited the Office of Fair Trading to review the merger laws currently preventing consolidation in the local media.
“At a local level the challenges for news are intense. Many people are beginning to raise questions about the longevity of local content,” Carter said in his report.
The Digital Britain report comes at a time when ITV is merging its 17 news regions into nine. It has already axed 430 jobs from its regional news division.
Carter said that a proposed partnership between ITV and the BBC ‘offers a promising but not yet settled route forward”.
Ofcom has suggested that third parties, such as local newspapers, could provide the regional news on ITV on its behalf.
The Department for Culture Media and Sport has now invited responses to a consultation before 12 March.
A final version of the Digital Britain report is expected in early summer.
Carter told journalists today: ‘We don’t have all the answers to all the questions and in many instances we are not even sure we have got all the questions.”
Culture secretary Andy Burnham told the Commons that the Government was exploring how it could establish a public service organisation “alongside the BBC”, building on “the strength” of Channel 4.