State web job-ad grab 'will put magazines at risk'

Government plans to put public service job advertisements online will have a devastating impact on magazines and newspapers, editors and publishers warned this week.

Of 5,500 business and professional titles in the UK, 2,500 are linked to the public sector, according to the Periodical Publishers’ Association. Some of the country’s biggest professional titles could face closure.

Magazines such as Community Care, Nursing Times, Nursing Standard, the New Scientist and Nature would be hit, as will as newspapers like The Guardian and The Times, which carry public sector advertising.

The Government’s E-envoy, Andrew Pinder, met with publishers last week and admitted that as an “unintended” consequence of government plans, to be implemented by 2005, many publications were threatened with loss of revenue.

The PPA has established a task force in a bid to make the Government aware of the impact of its plans and to encourage it to work in partnership with publishers.

PPA chief executive Ian Locks said: “Government websites will be different animals from totally targeted publications, but in some cases the competition will be extremely tough. We know that in some areas, public sectors are mandating the organisation under their control to put all procurements on their website and only on their website.

“The Government will find it is much more difficult to be an efficient publisher than it thinks. It will be forced to recognise that publishing is a skill and that skill of publishing is directing information at niche groups. I think the Government will realise that but it will take time for it to do so and in the meantime it is going to do a lot of damage.” The PPA is asking the Government to undertake its own analysis of what the full impact will be on the print media.

Polly Neate, editor of Community Care, said that if magazines read by the public sector workforce closed then vital services would be lost. This would include in-depth independent coverage of public policy; support for public sector workers who feel “misrepresented and undervalued” and specialist coverage of major events, such as the Victoria Climbie abuse inquiry.

“Without magazines like ours, many public policies would not get any coverage at all,” Neate said. “If we are silenced, an important part of the information jigsaw will be missing.”

Nick Morgan, managing director of Emap Healthcare, which publishes Nursing Times, said: “If the negative scenario happens, we lose revenue and jobs but also all the things the sector does for free will be stopped. For example, Nursing Times offers a free clinical archive for nurses because it is one of the things we can give back. It would be harder to offer these things if we lost advertising revenue.”

By Mary Stevens

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