Shadow culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the Tories will sink Government plans to replace broadcast news on ITV by blocking the relevant section of the Digital Economy Bill.
The Financial Times reports that the Conservatives could radically alter the bill because their consent is needed to get it through a crowded parliamentary schedule before the expected general election on 6 May. Hunt told the paper: “This is a red line for us. We want to clause out that bill.”
Hunt said: “I think the future for local news in this country is to find new business models, not new public subsidy.”
But Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw told the FT: “It is incredible that the Tories are hell-bent on destroying regional news on ITV.
“Nobody in the industry agrees with them that the market will provide quality regional news in the long term. I relish fighting the election campaign with Labour having a credible plan for the future of regional news, which the public greatly values, with the Tories abandoning it because of their free market, Murdoch-driven fetishism.”
Hunt signalled last month that the Conservatives would do all they can to torpedoe the Independently Funded News Consortia pilot schemes in England, Wales and Scotland – which would benfit from up to £130m of top-sliced licence fee cash.
The Tories say they would rather spend that money on subsidising superfast broadband.
Press Gazette believes Hunt’s ruthless free market idealism will cost hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists’ jobs.