Report on crisis in Scottish press industry

13 July 2009

Industry restructuring, competition from public sector advertising and stress in the workplace risks diminishing the quality and independence of the Scottish press industry which is an integral part of Scottish culture, concludes a report published today by the Scottish Affairs Committee

The report, which examines the current pressures facing the press industry in Scotland, says the economic climate, diminishing advertising revenues and the explosion of alternative news sources has forced the industry to dramatically restructure itself, often at great cost to staff.

Scotland is one of the most competitive markets for newspapers with 17 daily papers printed for a population of five million. But profits are down and print circulation is declining.

The trend by local authorities to advertise public sector jobs on specialist websites is having a devastating impact on the income of traditional print media. The Committee urges the Scottish and UK governments to ensure that the Scottish newspaper industry is not made unviable through overbearing competition from public sector advertising.

An estimated £10m could be cut from newspaper income as a result of moving statutory public notices from traditional print media to public sector portals and could potentially alienate sections of the population where access to the internet is low. The Committee asks the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to produce evidence that large parts of the population would not be excluded before removing public services entirely from print media.

The Committee is concerned at the reported levels of stress in the press industry and recommends that the National Union of Journalists shares the results of its health and safety audit with the management of all Scottish newspaper groups, who should respond with an action plan.

The Chairman of the Committee, Mohammad Sarwar MP, said:

"Scottish print media has a long and distinguished history of which Scottish people are rightly proud. High quality reporting which reflects Scottish culture and the interests and concerns of local communities is vital. But the evidence my Committee heard during this inquiry has raised significant questions and we urge the Scottish and UK governments to do everything in their power to safeguard the future of the industry."

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