Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Fulham Chronicle campaign: MPs condemn H&F

A group of MPs, who make up the Culture, Media & Sport select committee, have issued a report into what they believe is a "crisis" affecting the provision of independent news coverage for people in local areas. One of the things they zero'd in on was the trend among some local authorities, such as ours, to produce Pravda-like newspapers with tax-payers money.

The MPs said:
"The Committee notes with concern the growing number of local authority publications that are competing with commercial local newspapers, and also finds that some are misleading in nature and fail to make clear that they are council publications."

On our Council they had this to say:

H&F News follows the format of a local newspaper, with news, features and sport, as well as carrying a substantial amount of classified advertising, including extensive recruitment and property adverts. This is a very different format from other council publications.


There is a real problem with local authority newspapers and magazines that needs to be addressed. While it is clear that most of these publications, such as Portsmouth City Council's Flagship, are legitimate communications from a council to its citizens, this cannot be said for all local authority publications. Publications such as Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council's H&F News effectively pose as, and compete with, local commercial newspapers and are misleading to the public. It is unacceptable that a local authority can set up a newspaper in direct competition to the local commercial newspaper in this way. Nor should any council publication be a vehicle for political propaganda.

In fact they went further and called for a formal investigation by the Office for Fair Trading, OFT, into the practice.

Regular readers will know what I think of our Council's use of our money to produce a one-sided mouthpiece that masquerades as news, and of the Chronicle's campaign to embarass the Council into closing it down. Now it looks like one of the last things this current parliament will do before it breaks up for the election is to put the boot into the practice as well. Oh, and the Chairman of the committee is a Conservative.

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