LORD Justice Leveson has praised local newspapers in his report into the ethics and culture of the press.
In his long-awaited inquiry report, he singled out local newspapers for praise, saying their contribution to local life was “truly without parallel”.
He also called for urgent action by the Government to help safeguard the future of regional newspapers after highlighting the declines in revenues they have faced.
The judge highlighted the struggle for survival faced by many local titles, saying “their demise would be a huge setback for communities”.
His report states: “In relation to regional and local newspapers, I do not make a specific recommendation, but I suggest the Government should look urgently as what action it might be able take to help safeguard the ongoing viability of this much-valued and important part of the British press.
“It is clear to me that local, high-quality and trusted newspapers are good for our communities, our identity and our democracy and play an important social role.”
He said there was “no simple solution” to the issue, but this did not make things any less urgent.
Lord Leveson’s report sets out proposals for an independent regulatory body for the press, set up by the press itself but underpinned by legislation and “verified” by statutory regulator Ofcom.
However, he said this model “should not provide an added burden to the regional and local press”.
Lord Leveson added: “As to the commercial problems facing newspapers, I must make a special point about Britain’s regional newspapers. In one sense, they are less affected by the global availability of the biggest news stories but their contribution to local life is truly without parallel.
“Supported by advertisements (and, in particular, local property, employment, motor and personal), this source of income is increasingly migrating to the internet; local councils are producing local newsletters and therefore making less use of their local papers.
“Many are no longer financially viable and they are all under enormous pressure as they strive to re-write the business model necessary for survival. Yet their demise would be a huge setback for communities, and a real loss for our democracy.”