At the recent Revival of Local Journalism conference the Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, Ged Fitzgerald, reminded the audience of local journalists that he’s obliged to use local newspapers to publish statutory notices for planning, road closures and “all sorts of technical type stuff.”
That costs his council about £150,000 per year and overall costs the public sector £26m (that figure according to Fitgerald but a report by the Local Government Information Unit puts it at £67m).
Fitzgerald claimed: “nobody ever reads them and nobody ever responds to them,” but the newspaper industry has made it clear to government that they should stay in place, he complained.
Hyperlocal media operations play into this debate for a couple of reasons. Firstly, many of them have significant local online audiences and also, in some areas they serve localities that might no longer have local newspaper representation.
I think the current state of play is that the government isn’t likely to make any changes here. Certainly the summary given in written evidence by The Newspaper Society on the Deregulation Bill in March 2014 would suggest so.
Anyway, I was wondering how much this practice costs Birmingham City Council. The long route to finding out is an FOI request but you can get a global figure on how much the City pays the local newspaper group (Trinity Mirror) by looking through the list of payments that the council publishes. This does give which council department makes the payment but doesn’t say what it is for so the figure below may include other items such as printing costs (if it uses Trinity Mirror’s printing services) or job ads.
However, I suspect this figure is largely for statutory notices:
Birmingham City Council paid Trinity Mirror £198,068 in the last 12 months (June 2013 – June 2014)
|MONTH||TRINITY MIRROR MIDLANDS LTD||TRINITY MIRROR GROUP||TRINITY MIRROR PUBLISHING LTD||TOTAL|
(full tortuous working out in this excel spreadsheet which includes breakdowns for each month on the separate tabs)