Scottish Parliament report urges higher pay for local newspaper journalists

THE local newspaper industry ought to invest more money in its journalists rather than rewarding senior management with bumper pay packages, according to a Scottish Parliament committee.

In a report on the Scottish local newspaper industry released today, the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee at Holyrood voices its concern over the “contrast” that exists between the pay packets of senior media industry executives and that of their employees.

Says the report: “The Committee notes the levels of profits still being made by newspaper companies.

“The Committee also notes the contrast between the remuneration packages of senior management in the industry and the salaries being offered to journalists entering the profession in local newspapers.”

Emphasising the need to “recruit and retain well trained professional journalists”, the report adds: “The Committee believes, therefore, that it is essential that the management of newspaper companies take steps to make sustained investment in journalism.

“Such investment must ensure that journalists are supported, developed and fairly remunerated in order to play their vital role in the production of vibrant titles that will continue to find a market and ­- perhaps more importantly – carry out their important cultural, scrutiny and other functions in local communities across Scotland.”

The group of MSPs, which held evidence sessions with senior figures within the industry in January and March of this year, also highlights the urgent need for local newspaper groups to develop a sustainable business model to ensure their long-term survival.

Comments Committee Convener, MSP Karen Whitefield: “It’s imperative that the newspaper industry keeps pace with, and adapts to, technological and cultural changes in the media landscape. Newspapers must do all they can to remain relevant to people’s lives.

“Local newspapers are a vital training ground for journalists and have an important role to play in representing communities’ views on a number of issues. While it is up to the industry to manage its own future, we are calling on the Scottish Government to monitor the situation in the current challenging environment.”

As reported yesterday on allmediascotland, the Scottish Government remains committed to the creation of a Scottish Digital Network – a digital TV channel dedicated to Scottish content and backed by a big online presence – as recommended by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission in September two years ago.

However, the Committee is urging that any creation of a Scottish Digital Network should consider how much competition it would pose to the Scottish press.

Says the report: “It remains unclear whether the proposals for a Scottish network, as recommended by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, will be taken forward. However, if the proposals were to be developed, the Committee would ask the Scottish Government to assess what impact they might have on the printed media.”

The findings represent the culmination of almost eight months’ work, following the Committee’s decision last November to consider the issue on the back of difficulties faced by the local newspaper sector due to declining circulation and economic recession.