19 July 2011

Where's Ed?

Well OK, we know where he is. He’s on the Murdoch-bandwagon. And, to be fair, who can blame him? Not many people disagree with him on dismantling the media empires at the moment.

But he’s entirely ignoring another major media crisis.

Ed impressed me with his recent speech on the question of the printed press.

He said something that the NUJ has been saying for years - that local newspapers are being produced on a shoestring and this simply cannot be a good thing.

So you would hope that, with this new-found zeal for reforming the media landscape entirely, Ed might be concerned about the severe cuts on the South Yorkshire Times run out of a small office in the town of Mexborough in the heart of his Doncaster North constituency.

These are cuts that will see the already tiny editorial team cut by a half and the paper ultimately edited from Doncaster some 10 miles down the road. And they are cuts that have led to the NUJ within the wider South Yorkshire Newspapers group taking the astonishing step of all-out indefinite strike action.

Labour MPs, even shadow ministers, have already been supportive. John Healey who represents the neighbouring constituency to Ed has voiced his strong support for the NUJ’s position calling for the company to think again about the cuts.

But Ed has said nothing. Replied to no direct communication from the NUJ, or any of the members who have contacted him in relation to this dispute.

Johnston Press, the company that owns the South Yorkshire Newspapers group, is laden with crippling debt after a spending binge funded by cheap finance that has turned decidedly toxic. In the space of six years, the directors have overseen the share price fall from a high of 426p to a low of 4p. The Chief Executive John Fry has been rewarded for this failure with 1 million pounds a year in salary as he serves his final 12 months notice.

If Johnston Press was the UK PLC, we would be in a worse position than Greece and rewarding our failing politicians with our final remaining bars of gold from the emptied safe.

If JP and the other regional newspaper companies continue down this road, there is no question about it – local papers like the South Yorkshire Times will simply close. The company will bleed what is left by driving the products into the ground to satisfy the bailed-out RBS bankers who hold the debt, and constituencies like Ed Milibands will be left with no local paper.

This means millions of people in the UK will have no straightforward method for bringing the rich and powerful to account, or simply informing them about other events taking place in their communities.

Ed doesn’t have to agree to the NUJ strike action, or turn out on a picket line.

But as a politician in the spotlight who is going for the jugular of the biggest beast on media ownership, why is he not also taking the opportunity to attack the companies, and their systems of private debt, that are largely destroying our fragile local newspaper industry?

His abject failure to even comment on a crisis taking place on his doorstep lead me and all NUJ members involved to the conclusion that his grand talk about media ownership is little more than posturing. If Ed really cared about sorting out the media in the UK, he would address more than just Murdoch’s empires and the national papers.

1 comment:

Paul Hardy said...

Courage is easier far from home, isn't it? Reminds me of people oh so concerned about Nicaraguan banana growers or whatever but couldn't care less about working people at home