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No more 'propaganda on the rates' says Pickles

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 26 June 2010

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has launched a review into council-funded free newspapers, telling Channel 4 News's Stephanie West they are "propaganda on the rates dressed up as local reporting" that could damage the local newspaper industry.

Getty, papers

Lcoal newspapers are already under the cosh of recession and of keeping up with technological advances, with 100 closing in the last two years.

1200 remain, but editors and journalists fear that the rise of council-funded freesheets could be a death knell for the industry.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has launched a review into the practice.

He told Channel 4 News: "It's a growing trend. It's not the revenue, it's not the advertising that worries me. It's the unfair competition against newspapers and i think it is very important that we have an independent voice bringing local government to account.

"I have seen newspapers that are frankly masquerading as local papers when it comes from the council. How can the council hold itself to account?"

But some suggest that the declining circulation seen by local newspapers is more of a societal trend than a an issue to lay at the door of councils.

Lynne Anderson of trade body the Newspaper Society told Channel 4 News: "I should stress we've got no complaint whatsoever with the traditional type of council publication which gives taxpayers valuable information about council services.

"What we're complaining about is the new breed of competing council newspaper trying to style itself as a local independent newspaper and going after third party revenues."

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