MP Launches Impassioned Defence of Local Press
Jacob Rees-Mogg has launched an impassioned defence of local newspapers warning of the threat to the industry posed by state regulation of the press.
Writing on his website this week, the MP for North East Somerset urged readers to respond to the Government’s consultation on the Leveson Inquiry and its implementation making clear their opposition to state regulation of the press and the punitive costs sanctions in Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.
Mr Rees-Mogg writes: “As a regular contributor to and reader of local newspapers I am strongly biased in their favour. They perform an important role in our community by keeping us informed of events that will not make the national news. This is sometimes uplifting stories about local activities or the success of pupils at school but it can be sad news about accidents or exciting tales about crimes.
“Unfortunately, these papers are under threat. The internet has changed the financial dynamic especially in relation to classified advertisements which used to be their main income generator but have been lost to the World Wide Web. This is a challenge but not an unreasonable one whereas the threat from disgruntled celebrities who want to muzzle free speech is a self-inflicted wound.
“In recent news many famous people have been exposed as hypocrites or worse by national newspapers. Understandably they do not like these reports and have fought back against the medium that has embarrassed them. Using their considerable resources and a few sad stories about the victims of crime they have succeeded in setting up a few organisations to regulate the press. These are not compulsory as yet but the threat of financial penalties for those who do not join may become severe. If this were to happen the nationals could pay the bills but local papers would face closure.
“The Government is currently carrying out a consultation with the public to see if it should destroy the free press and bankrupt local papers in favour of libidinous luminaries. I urge readers to save this paper and others under threat by filling in the online survey via www.research.net/r/9WH5LV3 or writing to Press Policy, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 4th Floor, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ or email email@example.com.”
Mr Rees-Mogg was one of the MPs who spoke out in favour of a free press in recent House of Commons debates on the issue of press regulation. He described proposed costs sanctions against newspapers as “fundamentally wrong” and said they sought to “punish those who might be innocent and to fine them for telling the truth and for saying things that people in power do not like.”