- Published: Sunday, 24 January 2010 22:37
- Written by Jonathan Walker
I've reported previously that the Conservatives are opposed to the Government's plans for regional news consortia. These are the partnerships which will bring together newspapers, regional television and blogs, with a little Government subsidy.
But they went a little further last week, making it clear they would do their best to scrap the consortia even if they have been created before the next election. Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Tories would "do all we can to legally unpick them".
My former boss Marc Reeves, former editor of The Birmingham Post, is part of the panel that will choose the winning bid for the first three consortia.
Here are some extracts from Jeremy Hunt's speech:
"The Digital Economy Bill sets in stone the Government policy of using public subsidy to prop up regional news on ITV. My opposition to such a measure is hopefully, well known. Using the licence fee to prop up regional news simply casts a failed regional TV model in aspic. It would actively prevent the emergence of new, local media models, making broadcasters focus their energies on satisfying politicians not reaching viewers.
"I know that many organisations in this room are involved in bidding for the pilot schemes that this Bill would make permanent. And I don't blame you: faced with the terrifying situation many of you are in, it is understandable you want to follow the money wherever it is, public or private.
"So let me be clear. We do not support these provisions in the Digital Economy Bill. And we do not support the pilot schemes. The contracts are not due to be signed until May. Anyone looking to sign one should understand that we'll do all we can to legally unpick them if David Cameron enters Number 10. And if they haven't been signed, we won't be doing so.
"This is because we want to see the emergence of a radically different, improved and forward-looking local media sector. Not just local TV, where we are about the only major developed country not to have proper city-based TV franchises. But profitable, hungry and ambitious local radio, local newspapers and local websites as well."