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Mediawatch: The writing is on the wall for local papers…

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The battle to ban ‘Town Hall Pravdas’ continues. Eric Pickles has announced plans to put the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity on a statutory footing.

‘Self aggrandisement!’ he huffed and puffed. He wasn’t talking about himself, dear reader, he meant council newspapers and magazines.

The Newspaper Society has been rubbing its inky hands with glee since Mr Pickles changed the code to limit publication to four issues a year.

So editors are delighted by this next move, but concerned that legislation won’t be in force until April 2014.

Mr Pickles has done most council heads of public relations a favour by giving them a reason to cut a cost they probably had in their sights anyway

The secretary of state made his point to BBC London, since it’s mainly a few rebellious London councils that continue to publish weekly or fortnightly papers. In most parts of the country, the threat to legislate will be irrelevant.

Mr Pickles has done most council heads of public relations a favour by giving them a reason to cut a cost they probably had in their sights anyway. Despite some good examples, too many council publications have never developed beyond the level of a fancy parish magazine.

Some already exist online only, and while the code covers online publication, similarity with local papers is starting to evaporate.

The best councils are now using multiple channels to engage and inform their local residents. I predict that by 2014 council newspapers probably won’t even exist in their current form anyway.

Local papers are dying. Ask any local journalist fleeing the sector for a better paid job elsewhere.

Some council media teams are even beginning to question why they are structured to service an outlet that is becoming increasingly irrelevant to their residents.

I suspect a pyrrhic victory for the Newspaper Society on this one.

Carol Grant, director, Grant Riches Communications

Carol Grant is a former director of communications at Shelter

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