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02 December 2019

Dinsmore: Political Parties Must Stop Publishing Fake Local Newspapers

News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore has called on political parties to stop publishing election campaigning material which mimics the look and feel of independent local news media.

In a piece published in local newspapers across the UK this morning, Mr Dinsmore said the practice damaged trust in both politicians and independent local news media which has a “critical role to play” in the general election.

In the past week, all three of the main parties have been accused of creating fake local newspapers carrying party political campaigning content rather than independent local news, prompting an outcry from editors.

Mr Dinsmore said: “The consequences of this tactic are far reaching.  Audiences could be led to believe that they are reading independent local news rather than party political content.

“Or, they could see the charade for what it is – a cynical attempt by politicians to mislead the public. In both scenarios, trust in both politicians and local news media is badly damaged as a result.  

“The News Media Association is calling on all political parties to immediately end this damaging practice which harms and undermines our democratic society.”

Instead, Mr Dinsmore continued, politicians should focus on practical initiatives to help the local sector, which is facing “enormous challenges” to its business model from changing reader habits and the tech giants taking the “lion’s share” of advertising revenue.

Mr Dinsmore added: “That’s why, at the start of this election campaign, the NMA challenged Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn to answer five questions about how they would help the local media industry if they were elected.

“We want them to take steps to protect press freedom, crack down on the tech giants who use our content yet contribute next to nothing back into the industry, and move government advertising spend back into trusted news media channels.

“By doing this, whoever leads the next government will help ensure a bright future for the news brands which contribute so much to our democratic way of life.”