Star date: 26th June 2010 


Today, the Government has announced plans to 'toughen up the rules' governing tax payer funded council publications.

"Our free press should not face state competition from propaganda on the rates dressed up as local reporting" says Eric Pickles Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

He adds that "town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin…undermine a free press".

With a promised revision and tightening of the rules covering local authority publicity, this could well mean the end of Salford Council's controversial loss making Life magazine…

Full story here…

Andy Burnham Letter To Salford Star
click image to enlarge

In a strongly worded statement today, Eric Pickles the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears old job) hits out at local councils `wasting taxpayers' money' on magazines and newspapers.

"The previous Government's weakening of the rules on town hall publicity not only wasted taxpayers' money and added to the wave of junk mail, but has undermined a free press" he says "Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on frontline services like providing regular rubbish collections."

The Government aims to clamp down "by making changes to the statutory code that will stop unfair competition, ensure a tougher value for money test, and prevent municipal literature passing itself off as independent journalism".

As Salford Star reported recently, Salford Council's monthly magazine, Life in Salford, costs around £28,000 an issue (the Council has never disclosed the full cost including staff) and has begun to lose money this year (click here for details).

Meanwhile, a couple of years ago, Lib Dem councillor, Steve Cooke resigned from Life's editorial board calling it a "propaganda vehicle for the cabinet" and "an often misleading and relentlessly and unjustifiably upbeat publication."

A press statement from the Communities and Local Government dept explains that "in recent years there has been a growth in the number, frequency and scope of council newspapers" and adds that "the goal is to ensure a robust and healthy independent local press can continue to scrutinise the activities of local councils."

Unfortunately, while clamping down on council publications, the press statement from the Government gives absolutely no indication how it is going to "foster the sustainable and independent media that is so vital to our democracy", beyond relaxing local cross media ownership rules (ie more media monopolies) and fostering what it calls the "emergence of local television stations".

The previous Government came out with almost identical statements. Culture Minister, Andy Burnham said that "The issue of council newspapers is top of my in-tray at the moment. There has to be a balance and councils are overstepping that". Burnham even wrote to the Salford Star agreeing that "strong local news is vital to a healthy democracy and provides a healthy and valuable and highly trusted service to the public". 

And Hazel Blears, Salford MP and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government at the time, said "a strong independent media is a vital part of any democracy" whilst advocating `community kitties' to empower local people and give them a voice.

Every government comes out with the right words but none, it seems, wants to directly help "independent media that is so vital to our democracy"…

Meanwhile, Salford Council's controversial Life in Salford magazine is now under threat from the new Government…

See previous Salford star articles...

The Pravda Factor - click here

Salford Council Mad Mag Costs - click here

Salford Star Wars - click here

Stitched - Salford Star Appeal To Cabinet - click here

Salford Star Evidence to Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture - click here

David Henry wrote
at 07:40:12 on 04 July 2010
The Star and it's journalists are free to write about whatever they like Steve, even if it gets your back up. Of the five current articles displayed on the side bar none of them are about the Star itself. Only one of them is about the City Council (Salford Fat Cats) - this is the sort of thing people want to read. I reckon if the site released it's hits for each story those sort of items will statistically receive the most interest. You won't find it anywhere else as other people are too afraid to publish it.. although the Manchester Evening News does the occasional investigation, the best example I can think of is when they exposed how much Howard Bernstein CEO of Manchester earned, but they seem to be in their pockets now.. ironically. It is just my perspective, but the "Democratically elected council" represents the people who voted for them, their political parties and themselves. Do they represent the voices of people who votes for the BNP or Green for example? Perhaps under Proportional Representation that would change but the City Council is rather weak on political diversity until that happens, if it ever does. It's also pretty poor at representing other types of diversity such as the number of women, younger people and those from minority groups.
Salford Star wrote
at 06:20:06 on 04 July 2010
See Steve's comment below...The Salford Star has never claimed to represent anyone. What we try to do is hold public bodies up to account which is what journalists should be doing as part of the democratic process. We try very hard not to write about the Star but you have to understand that unless the Star can get funding from somewhere the stories you want us to write about re the community are not going to happen. And the community is not going to be able to read them unless we're in print. We do get fed up of having to justify ourselves on the comments bit of the site. Understand please, that no-one gets paid for doing this, we are volunteers, we have jobs (sometimes!), wives, husbands, kids and lives. We're doing the best we can but without funding from somewhere for phones, petrol, research etc how long do you think this is going to last? Would you like the Salford Star to just disappear? Maybe you would. Then there'd be even less accountability in this city.
Steve wrote
at 06:03:18 on 04 July 2010
So a democratically elected Council is not representative but a self appointed community magazine is? Strange one that. As you say - perfectly entitled to apply for funding - and the committee is perfectly entitled to say 'no'. I wish the Star would get over it's little spat with the Council about funding and get on with writing about the community instead of writing about itself all the time.
David Henry wrote
at 17:40:28 on 30 June 2010
Steve Wrote: "Salford Life is published by a democratically elected council. If we don't like it we can vote for someone else" - But what about the Majority of people in Salford who A. didn't/don't/can't vote and B. Didn't vote for the ruling Labour Party? It may be "democratic" but it is not representative and the £100,000+ expense given to Life in Salford is not justified as a result. The Salford Star is a COMMUNITY publication, it is therefore perfectly reasonable for it to apply to the COMMUNITY COMMITTEE for what is in reality only a few hundred pounds in funding. If the editor expresses an opinion in public it is always made clear that is his personal view - and that's an independent viewpoint, not partisan nor party-political. The voluntary sector has every right to hold the public and statutory sector to account. I see Cllr Merry has constantly refereed to the Local Government Act, well I shall do the same and mention one word this City Council loves to avoid but needs to hear it is called the COMPACT AGREEMENT. It is statutory guidance which all local authorities must adhere too which requires them to work with and support the voluntary sector and community organisations (be they magazines, local radio stations, day centres, sports clubs, gardening groups etc).
Henry Hound wrote
at 15:08:14 on 30 June 2010
Thanks Ed - sorry, I'd not spotted the "Donate" button (the ageing process must be catching up with me) - I do have to say that I'm amazed at how much you manage to achieve with such a tight budget, good on you and keep on challenging authority!
Steve wrote
at 12:20:42 on 30 June 2010
I'm with Henry Hound on this one. We know money is hard to come by - including money from Council Tax payers in Salford. But the Star needs to try to be more positive and creative. Just face it - there won't be any money coming from the Council. Put your energies elsewhere.
Salford Star wrote
at 10:28:44 on 30 June 2010
Hiya Henry Hound (see below). I am the editor and while I don't like to intervene in your spat with Nachtschlepper, I'd like to point out where we're at. Firstly, I agree with you in that I don't expect the Council to reverse its funding decision, no matter how just our case may be. Believe me, we have looked for alternative sources of funding - which we've had in the past but can only get once. There was a £2million `investigations fund' donated by the Potter Foundation but this seems to have disappeared into a black hole at City University. We've been getting donations off Salford's community for years - over £2500 - but an issue costs £7k now to print, so it's obviously not enough. We are exploring new ways of getting donations which we hope to announce in the next month or so, thanks to a supporter, but in the meantime, anyone can donate through Paypal - just click on the side bar button or go to Shop. We're also still selling some t-shirts and baby grows. We're also in touch with editors of similar sites and newspapers throughout the country who are having the same problems as ourselves - but I don't think anyone can afford the bus fare to meet up! At the moment we have no office, no landline phone, and obviously no staff because everyone's a volunteer. We run this on the arse end of a shoestring. Any ideas are welcome because we believe that the Salford Star is needed.
Henry Hound wrote
at 10:13:44 on 30 June 2010
*sigh* Of course I get it; Salford Star has a full and detailed archive of articles about this, we ALL get it, but the unpalatable reality here is that the Council is highly unlikely to change its funding decisions while the Star continues to attack it - and I'm not knocking the Star here, it has a clear and valuable mandate to challenge the system - what I'm saying and which YOU clearly don't get, is by all means continue the fight against the Council and try to reverse their funding systems, but don't bank on it happpening - in the meantime get positive and creative and consider finding alternative funding streams to get the Star back into print - times may be hard but there must be alternatives to explore (and don't give up on using the public voice just because you think the Council won't listen, if we all thought like that then nothing would ever change) - how about appealing to the readership to donate, maybe setting up a Paypal account? You might be surprised to know that I for one would certainly contribute! And what do other organistions like the Star do nationally - perhaps the Editor has contacts to consult with? PS you tell me to visit the place and talk to the people - you have no idea where I live & work and what I do for a living, and whilst I don't wish to disclose that information here let me assure you that I do both in spades.
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 23:47:58 on 29 June 2010
'H' you really don't get it do you? The Council started off by helping to fund the Salford Star, then they changed the rules because they didn't like what they saw. This is a Council that spent £20m of public money on an orchestra that hardly anybody in the city wanted. What makes you or anyone think they would listen to petitions, demos or anything people have to say. As for the ballot box, do you really think people would make a choice on whether or not the Council funds a magazine? Read the articles here online. All the Council wants is a propaganda mag to make things look good in the city. You could try visiting the place, walking around & asking people what they think. That's what the Salford Star does.
Henry Hound wrote
at 13:49:12 on 29 June 2010
So it's back to the same old circular argument - The Star wants to be funded by the Council because it can't secure funding elsewhere - the Council refuses to provide said funding, possibly hiding behind some rather tenuous assertions in denying the funding - Steve had it right with his earlier comment - the opportunity to change this was at the ballot box - yet Salford's electorate in one of its biggest turnouts chose to re-elect the Council and its key members and indeed its most controversial MP fairly comfortably in most cases - does The Star have public opinion wrong? - rather than continue to moan about this, why not take some positive action - a public demo or a petition (paper-based and/or online) or some other show of public support for example?
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 10:45:44 on 29 June 2010
Henry, do you really thinks the Council blocks funding applications because of an attitude. Come on man, wake up, it's because the magazine refuses to be told what they can & can not print. It's because the magazine is critical of the Council. It's because the magazine has a problem with authority. Not my words, but the Council's. Merry even suggested they might give funding, as long as they had control. You can creep & crawl all your life, they might even throw you a bone now & then. I'd rather stand up & tell the truth. As for going out there & getting funding, again another mouth who knows nothing about the city, I'll write this slowly because it's not getting through to some. There is no money in Salford, huge unemployment rates, massive depravation, all the things this magazine highlights.
Henry Hound wrote
at 09:48:39 on 29 June 2010
Nachtschlepper you write "if you really want to p*ss & moan... write something for the Salford Star" - that's why it's never going to attract council funding because sadly that's what the Star does all too often and dresses it up as respectable journalism. If the Star truly deserves external funding then go out there and get it. Unfortunately I suspect that The Star's occasional flashes of excellence are outweighted by the attitudinal stories and that's why it's struggling to find funding.
Em3 wrote
at 09:48:21 on 29 June 2010
yes come and join us Steve - you sound like a fun kinda fella! (provided you will work for nowt of course!!
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 21:38:00 on 28 June 2010
Obviously Steve you know nothing about Salford, there is no money. It is, & has been for a long time, one of the most deprived cities in Britain. The Salford Star does not 'pester' the Council for money, all the magazine is asking is why it is never given a fair crack of the whip. The money is set aside for the community committees to use as they see fit, but, at the risk of repeating myself those committees are denied the chance to do as they wish by council stooges telling them they could be prosecuted if they should choose to help fund the Salford Star. You know if you really want to piss & moan about something worthwhile then do write something for the Salford Star.
Steve wrote
at 18:23:01 on 28 June 2010
The Star needs to stop writing sob stories about itself, stop pestering the Council for money and go out there and get some community support - including finance.
Nachtschlepper wrote
at 10:47:38 on 28 June 2010
Steve, the councillors might be elected, but the gauleiter who tell the community committees they will be breaking the law if the do something the council may not like are not. As for the accountability of the Sal;ford Star, well it is written by the people of Salford, one of which I just happen to be.
Steve wrote
at 18:25:21 on 27 June 2010
Salford Life is published by a democratically elected council. If we don't like it we can vote for someone else. What is the route to accountability for the Salford Star?
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