Writing in Devon's Herald Express, the Lib Dem MP for Torbay uses the example of the Star's coverage of Urban Splash housing in Chimney Pot Park to show how local media is "an essential part of our democracy".
"The Select Committee I sit on is currently investigating the future of local newspapers. I start with the view that local newspapers are an essential part of our democracy, shedding light on local decision-making and holding people to account for their actions. We will all be less well informed and able to make choices without the spotlight being shone on local affairs.
Take the example of the Salford Star, a paper which won Best Regional Newspaper category at last year's Plain English Campaign awards. Three years ago this now defunct (ahem – ed) local paper exposed the property company Urban Splash for not providing promised affordable housing in a flagship development hailed by local MP Hazel Blears.
The paper argued that the average price of the first 108 Urban Splash homes were well beyond the pockets of the local population. This went against the company's promises which had won over local people to its plans in the first place.
It's a small story, but without the local paper it would never have been told. Instead, as the Salford Star editor has hinted, all you would ever get to read about Urban Splash was its own publicity handouts.
Urban Splash is one of the two bidders to take over Oldway Mansion and carry out the Mayor's vision to build housing in the grounds of the estate. I don't suppose the company would have included its Salford Star press coverage in its offer, but the real point is that without the local paper there would have been limited scrutiny of its performance.
Our investigations into the future of local newspapers will involve looking at alternative funding models. We are going to have to ask some difficult questions such as whether some of the BBC's licence fee money for public service broadcasting, or other funding, ought to be available to local newspapers. We will need to answer whether this would be used for local news gathering, or the maintenance of journalistic standards, or training the next generation of reporters…"
We have written to Adrian Sanders saying we would gladly give evidence to the Select Committee on the plight of the Star. But meanwhile, hats off to the member for Torbay – he's the first MP to acknowledge our work in the whole country. Unlike our local MP, Hazel Blears…
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