MP Atkins champions role of local papers

Louth & Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins has championed the importance of local newspapers and urged the Government to ensure a proposed new BBC charter will not have a negative impact.

Victoria Atkins.

In a recent debate in Parliament, Ms Atkins said papers like the Louth & Mablethorpe Leader and Horncastle News had an important part to play in representing and promoting their local communities.

In a question to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, Ms Atkins said she was concerned the charter could ‘drive’ people away from local papers.

Ms Atkins said: “My constituency has six local newspapers which are vital in providing news to the local community.

“We all know the pressures faced by local newspapers across the country, particularly as more and more of us get our news online.

“How will the new charter help to ensure that the BBC’s very successful website does not have the unintended consequence of driving people away from local newspapers and their websites?”

Mr Whittingale replied: “Local newspapers play a vital role in sustaining local democracy and will become more important as more powers are passed down to devolved administrations and local government.

“For quite some time, I have therefore sought to encourage the BBC to support local newspapers, rather than undermine them, as it has occasionally been accused of doing.

“I am delighted that an agreement has been reached in principle between the BBC and the News Media Association, which represents the local press, whereby the BBC has now agreed to fund a reporting service to cover local authorities and public services.

“It intends to fund 150 journalists who will be employed by qualifying local organisations, not by the BBC.

“In that way, the BBC will be obtaining greater content on what is going on in local authorities and, in doing so, will be supporting local newspapers.”