An open letter to Philip Glanville:
Dear Mayor Glanville,
As I am sure you will agree, local newspapers such as ours play a vital role in informing the community, fostering debate and holding local authorities to account.
The majority of news publishers across London and the rest of the UK are in a situation where they do not have to compete with the local authority’s fortnightly or monthly printed freesheet and website for advertising.
However, in Hackney the council continues to publish its fortnightly freesheet and run advertising on its website, in competition with local news publishers.
The council will be aware that news publishers across the UK are facing very challenging commercial conditions as ad revenue from print sales continues to fall globally.
Whilst we have always recognised the right of the council to produce its own communications for residents, we regard the selling of advertising in its publications and on its websites as unfair competition.
Imagine if the BBC decided to sell advertising and compete with commercially-funded channels.
Like the BBC, the council’s fortnightly freesheet Hackney Today is funded by the taxpayer – and would not be viable were it not subsidised by the taxpayer.
It does not rely on advertising sales as its lifeblood. But local news publishers do.
The council’s selling of advertising therefore makes the funding of effective government scrutiny more difficult and in so doing has an adverse effect on local democracy and debate.
We acknowledge the budgetary constraints under which the council is operating and the reasons why the council has taken a more commercial approach to bring in more cash in the face of funding cuts from central government.
However, several tens of thousands of pounds of advertising revenue is a relatively small proportion of the council’s annual budget of over a billion pounds.
We call on you to halt the sale of advertising in the council’s fortnightly freesheet and on its website so that the borough’s news publishers can at least operate in a similar commercial environment to those in the vast majority of other London boroughs.
Founding editor, Hackney Citizen