Sunday, 28 October 2012

Free Press.

In yesterday's Daily Post, the editor Alison Gow laments the end of  the 'free press' as we know it today. She says:
"We await the findings of the Leveson Report into the culture, practise and the ethics of the whole newspaper industry, thanks to the distasteful and illegal actions of a few national newspaper journalists and managers.

As a result of their actions the spectre of statutory regulation in our future and with it the end of the Free Press..."
Personally I'm not sure we have a free press now which prompted me to write the following letter to the Daily Post in response:
Dear Editor,

Alison Gow in her column is quite right to raise concerns about the impact of Leveson on a free press (Post, October 27th); but what she fails to mention is just how free the press is now?

Newspapers across North Wales as in other areas are wholly reliant on advertising revenue to maintain profitability and the main source of that revenue is from public bodies like local councils, the Police and Health Board, who publish public notices and advertisements.

The question then arises is whether these public bodies have a disproportionate influence on editorial policy? Do public bodies get an easy ride from the press and are they able to suppress damaging stories, or at least limit the damage, what is known in the trade as ‘reputation management.’?

Yours faithfully,

Cynghorydd/Councillor Arfon Jones,
It will be interesting if Alison Gow takes the bait and responds next week.


Alison Gow said...

Hello Cllr Jones,
Your letter hasn't arrived yet but as you raise the question here, I thought it would be helpful to post a response here too.
No newspaper is 'wholly reliant' on advertising revenue, either local or national (eg. Tesco)
It is, of course, an important part of our business but there are many other revenue streams for publishers, including circulation, printing facilities and services and data management.
I think if you were to ask any of those local organisations - police or local councils, for example - if they got a free pass (or an easy ride) as a result of advertising with us, they would laugh hollowly at the notion.
I am aware of one Welsh council that pulled its advertising as a result of a negative story in the local press (for more on that go here) that's the council's choice to make.
No one has ever tried to use advertising with me as a leverage to have a story pulled, although I've had plenty of after-the-presses-rolled 'discussions' with press offices.
I hope that helps clarify the situation.
Finally, if I might ride my hobby horse a little more... The idea of statutory regulation appalls me. We do have a free press in the UK; whatever you think of newspapers that is a precious thing, and it should not become subject to state approval.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Sorry about that, I'll try emailing it again.

Plaid Whitegate said...

Alison - thanks for responding so promptly and positively.