NUJ leaders are to hold urgent talks with culture secretary Andy Burnham on the cutbacks and job losses currently engulfing newspaper publishers and TV companies as the economic crisis in the media deepens.
The union has said it is engaged in wide-ranging discussions on the future of the industry and later this month will put its case for strengthening local journalism to Burnham when he meets the NUJ Parliamentary Group.
A Local Media Commission, consisting of industry and union figures and academic experts, has been set up by the union. It will meet in London on 30 March.
Labour MP Denis MacShane, a former NUJ president, has called on the Government to convene a newspaper industry summit to “stop the haemorrhage of journalist jobs and the closure on scores of local papers with question marks over the strength and survival of national papers”.
Answering questions in the Commons this week, the culture secretary promised to meet the union and said: “We need to come forward with proposals to ensure that there are high-quality training and media at a local level across all media.
“The time has come for Parliament to take a greater interest in the health of journalism at local level, and particularly in how it might relate to skills and to the health of democracy.”
He referred to the reviews being conducted of the regulations on media ownership by the Office of Fair Trading and by Lord Carter’s forthcoming Digital Britain report.
Newspaper publishers have been lobbying for a relaxation of the regulations governing local media mergers.
The chief executives of seven of the top regional newspaper companies have formed the Local Media Alliance to negotiate directly with Government.
The NUJ has said it does not want public money to go directly to the media companies that have “cut resources to the bone to satisfy shareholders” and is exploring alternative ways of boosting local media.