Should councils still have to run long, wordy adverts in local newspapers?

It’s very common to see local councils advertising in local newspapers, and they are often one of the main sources of advertising revenue for the local press. That can cause conflicts over whether there is improper influence at work and also over whether councils should shift money elsewhere, risking plunging the local press into enforced cutbacks in its news coverage as income shrinks.

But there is another question, which is whether many of the adverts are any good – especially those which are text heavy and laden with legal terms required by law. That’s the case that Bristol Council’s Peter Holt has made to PR Week:

We still have to pay for full page adverts on page 40 or 50 of the local paper, lodged between the premium line adverts (Flirt now – fun live chat – choose from ‘domination’, ‘mature’ or ‘fetish’ lines – only 60p per minute from a BT landline).

Not just full page statutory notices, but made up of endless paragraphs of impenetrable legalese.  Not a single map or artist’s impression in sight, and plain English ruled out by statute too.

Seriously Mr Pickles, seriously?  Previous Governments haven’t grasped this nettle before you, but will you? Wouldn’t it make the oft-quoted Mrs Pickles ever-so proud?

A hefty six figures sum in my Council area alone.  Repeated across the whole country, this is many, many millions of pounds of tax-payers’ money wasted.

I don’t want a single local paper to go out of business – least of all in my city.

But if the Government is going to be serious about us all living in the modern age and cutting out waste, especially in frothy areas like council advertising, can we either have some action, or at least a little more up-front plain speaking about this scarcely-hidden, legally-enforced subsidy to newspaper barons?

And here’s some question for readers, who I suspect are more likely to read those adverts at the back of local newspaper than the typical member of the public. Do you read the adverts? Have you changed your views or plans because of one? Do you think they are well done?

One response to “Should councils still have to run long, wordy adverts in local newspapers?”

  1. The problem is that the Local Council here (Salford) are using this excuse to publish their own newspaper with a decidedly incumbent bias. Rather than pay for it to be published in the local paper their on newspaper takes the adverts.

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