Politician proposes young people receive a newspaper, free for a year

YOUNG Scots should receive a newspaper of their choice, for free and for a year, in the hope they develop a lifelong habit of buying a newspaper – according to a senior Scottish politician.

Says Scottish Labour’s culture spokesperson, Pauline McNeill MSP, there should be a plan, similar to one in operation in France, that sees every 18 year-old receive a newspaper, for a whole year.

Writing in today’s Scotsman newspaper, she says: “We need to act because the newspaper industry is facing the biggest crisis in its history with almost every day bringing more bad news.”

She continues, in her opinion piece: “I believe we need some positive ideas to protect the role that newspapers play as an essential part of Scotland’s democratic, artistic and popular culture.

“In France, President Sarkozy has introduced a package of measures to help the beleaguered press. They include the offer of a free daily newspaper for every 18 year old.

“Less controversial are proposals to put young people into newsrooms to help make editorial content more relevant and introduce a daily newspaper reading period in schools to help create a habit of regular reading.

“The unprecedented emergency facing the Scottish media means we should consider similar proposals here to introduce young people to newspapers, so they become long-term readers.”

Her comments come in the wake of a SNP proposal that local authorities – to save money – transfer their public notices from newspapers to the internet.

She adds: “Newspaper groups which take part in the scheme should be asked to provide a commitment that any money provided by the tax payer is ring fenced for apprenticeships, or put towards proper and regular payment of trainee journalists on work placement schemes.

“But doing nothing is not an option.

“Our communities are at risk of being disenfranchised by the decline of local newspapers and we need to work together with the industry to find creative solutions that will guarantee a long-term future.”