Some regional daily newspapers have lost 80 per cent of their editorial staff over since 2006, according to research by former regional editor Keith Perch.
Former daily editor says up to 80 per cent of UK local newspaper journalism jobs have gone since 2006
Some regional daily newspapers have lost 80 per cent of their editorial staff since 2006, according to research by former regional editor Keith Perch.
Former Derby Telegraph and Leicester Mercury editor Perch was speaking at a House of Lords discussion on the future of local journalism in the UK to mark the publication of a new study called: Monopolising Local News.
The research paper, by Gordon Ramay and Martin Moore, looks at the local monopoly position of many local newspaper publishers. It found that, as of November 2015, there were 1,112 local daily and weekly newspapers in the UK (down from an estimate of 1,687 in 1985, according to Bob Franklin).
The study found that four publishers (Trinity Mirror, Johnston Press, Newsquest and Tindle) own 73 per cent of local newspaper titles and that in 165 out 380 local authority districts publishers have a print monopoly.
A sample of 20 local authority districts where publishers had monopoly print coverage found that in 16 cases they had the same position when it came to online news.
Perch spoke out about the decline of local newspaper journalism jobs since the financial crash of 2008 citing his own academic research.
The meeting heard evidence from Press Gazette that at least half the estimated 13,000 UK regional journalism jobs in 2006 have disappeared since then.
Perch, who now lectures at the University of Derby, said: “The scale of the problem is always undert stated. I think as much as 80 per cent of the jobs have disappeared.
“People look at newspaper closures, but the biggest change is that daily newspapers used to have loads of editions which were geographically based.
“They were effectively producing lots of daily newspapers for smaller towns. The Derby Telegraph used to have six editions all with journalists based in their own offices. Ripley had reporters based there producing a daily edition of a daily newspaper.”
He cited research showing that news stories about Ripley had reduced from 30 or 40 per week to zero since the loss of district reporters.
Perch told Press Gazette that he knew of a big UK daily newspaper title where the editor reported going from 140 journalists in 2006 to 36 today. And he said the Derby Telegraph has gone from 120 to 32.
Labour MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw is a former local newspaper journalist himself.
He told the meeting: “Most politicians want there to be a healthy, challenging local media landscape. Not least because it means they get in the media more themselves.
“It’s also absolutely essential to the healthy running of a democracy.”
And he said that any suggestions about what the Government can do help local media would be “welcomed by politicans across the political spectrum”.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet rejected the idea regional publishers should use the BBC as a “cash cow”.
Publishers’ body the News Media Association is currently in discussions with the BBC about the how the licence fee can be used to fund local council reporting as part of the new Charter settlement.
Stanistreet suggested that the Localism Act should be changed so that local newspapers can gain protected status as a community asset.
Lord Inglewood, who is chairman of regional newspaper publisher CN Group, said he would be in favour or local newsapaper publishers bidding to sell local political coverage to the BBC (in the same way that Independent Production Companies provide programming).
But he said publishers were instinctively suspicious of state aid.
Inglewood, who is also chairman of the House of Lords Communications Committee, said: “Advertising for us [at CN Group] was down 20 per cent year on year this March. There is another cliff over which advertising is going…
“I don’t think they [regional publishers] will accept any form of state subsidy. We are not beholden to the state and we are not keen on becoming that.”
The Monopolising Local Power report notes that regional publishers are already subsidised in the form the VAT zero rating for newspapers (which could be worth more than £500m) and government spending on public notices (worth £26m a year according to tthe Local Government Association).
The report notes that these “subsidies” are not available to emerging hyperlocal news providers and it suggests that these should be “reviewed and reformed so that they support the provision of local public interest news , whoever provides it”.
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