Northern Echo Editor Pins Down Prime Minister On Local Press Support

Northern Echo editor Hannah Chapman pinned down Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his plans to support the local press industry during a visit to the newspaper’s headquarters in Darlington after the News Media Association issued a challenge to party leaders.  

The paper quizzed Mr Johnson on a series of issues including Brexit and the NHS before asking Mr Johnson what a Conservative government would do to help the industry as it looks tobuild sustainable models for the future

Hannah said: “This week the News Media Association issued a direct challenge to the Conservative and Labour party leaders to answer five questions about how they would help the local media sector if they were elected.

“The questions include a commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Cairncross report into the future of local media within six months of being elected, investing more of the Government’s own advertising spend into local media, carrying out a media freedom audit on all proposed primary and secondary legislation, and rigorous enforcement of the BBC regulatory regime to ensure its services are not causing harm to independent commercial media companies.

“The final question asks if the Government would support the UK’s system of voluntary press self-regulation and commit to the repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which, if enacted, would force publishers to submit to statutory press regulation or face paying crippling legal costs for both sides in libel and privacy cases, even if they win.”

Mr Johnson became the most animated he was at any time during his visit, thumping the desk in the editor’s office, he said “you will have our support,” adding that local media was vital in reporting councils, and devolved authorities in order to prevent corruption.

He said: “You need local newspapers if you are to have justice because if you don’t have local newspapers doing court reports then justice is not done as it is not seen to be done, so you’ve got to keep going.”

Hannah added: “As a former journalist, he clearly understands the industry, and speaking to our advertising staff on the way out, chatted about the challenges of the shifting digital marketplace.

“Broad-brush backing while currying favour during a General Election campaign is one thing though. Following it up by taking these specific steps in quite another.”