THE Shadow Minister for Media Helen Goodman spoke out over the future of local newspapers yesterday.
During a conference at Sunderland University’s media centre, she said: “News is not just a commodity to be bought and sold and profited from.
“Local newspapers must be protected from voracious businesses interested only in turning a profit without any commitment to their communities.”
She was part of a gathering of media heads from across the North East and UK who assembled to discuss the long-term prospects for the industry.
The Bishop Auckland MP told the conference on the future of local media the question of ownership was vital, with the possibility newspapers could be “taken over and traded on the New York Stock Exchange”.
“You may find the Sunderland Echo becomes owned by somebody who does not even know that Sunderland, as a place, exists at all.”
“There is absolutely a demand and a desire for local news and local content,” said Ms Goodman.
“There is a real danger of local newspapers becoming just shop fronts for larger regional or national players, who don’t have them produced locally, who produce content at a generic level and just tweak it for their local newspapers.
“We need to think about what we would like local news to be, to create the conditions for this to happen.
“Who are we interested in – the producers or the predators?
“The producers, train, invest, invent and sell – the predators are interested in taking what they want out of the business.”
Dozens of delegates attended the all-day seminar, held at the university’s David Puttnam Media Centre.
Sunderland Echo editor Rob Lawson was among those taking part in a panel on the viability of media outside of the capital with Northern Echo deputy editor Chris Lloyd and Newcastle Journal editor Brian Aitken.
Other subjects under the microscope included the likely impact of Local TV, planned cuts to the BBC in the regions and the approach to using new media and the Internet.