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Recorder letters: Local media in the general election and the Commonwealth

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 December 2019

The News Media Association is asking campaigning political parties not to imitate newspapers in campaign material. Picture: NMA

The News Media Association is asking campaigning political parties not to imitate newspapers in campaign material. Picture: NMA

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Please respect and support role of local media

News Media Association wrote an open letter from local media publishers to Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson and Jo Swinson:

We write to you on behalf of local news brands, in print and digital, which reach 40.6m people a month.

During this election, politicians and candidates from all parties have gone to great lengths to praise local media and its important role in communities.

You have applauded local media's investigative reporting and powerful campaigns and celebrated its vital role in championing local communities.

And you've acknowledged that local news brands are an essential part of the democratic process by holding power to account and providing high-quality news.

It is widely known that the news media industry, particularly the local media sector, is facing significant challenges caused by changing news consumption habits and tech platforms' dominance in the digital advertising market.

So you would understand our amazement when election campaign material imitating local newspapers from the three major political parties started to appear through people's letterboxes.

To discover that local media is under attack by those who had purported to be supporters is extremely worrying.

Why are political parties passing off their fake newspaper propaganda as trusted local news?

Not only are you taking advantage of our highly trusted credentials, you are also actively undermining our business models.

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Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but this has to stop.

The News Media Association and its members are calling on all political parties to immediately end this damaging practice which harms and undermines our democratic society. Furthermore, we urge you all to help ensure the sustainable future of journalism.

At a time when trust in politicians and institutions is so low and fake news on social media is rife, why not instead be properly held to account by the journalists who write for our papers and websites? Whichever party wins the election, we call on you to implement the recommendations of the Cairncross Report, move government advertising spend back into trusted news media channels and protect press freedom. We look forward to your assurances that these measures will be taken promptly and the damaging effects of your campaigning materials will stop with immediate effect.

Commonwealth has role to play

Derek James, Wards Wharf Approach, Royal Docks, writes:

The Recorder is performing a good service by giving equal space for all the candidates in the forthcoming election.

It was, however, disappointing - but sadly predictable - that none of those standing in West Ham gave even a passing reference to the Commonwealth. I expect the same will be true of the candidates in East Ham. So far I have not heard a single mention of the Commonwealth by any party leader or spokesperson.

The surely is very surprising for at least five reasons:

1. The Commonwealth is such an amazing international organisation, with a huge potential for good: 53 (perhaps soon to be 54) sovereign countries, bridging most of the differences that can so easily divide the world and hinder understanding - geography, race, religion, wealth, level of development, rise of country - and all done without a supranational authority or regulations,held together voluntarily by ties of family, by trust and affection, by many shared values and by the English language.

2. The sacrifices made by all parts of the Commonwealth in the Second World War, arguably the greatest threat ever to civilisation. For a time it was only Britain and the Commonwealth (not just Britain as is sometimes claimed) that stood against the Third Reich. Remembering those shared experiences and acknowledging the debts of loyalty and mutual obligation rising from them does not imply any wish to keep old enmities alive.

3. It is highly relevant to the danger from climate change. Many members are small, low-lying islands that would be first affected by a rise in sea levels.There is more rain forest in the Commonwealth than anywhere, apart from the Amazon. Surely whoever forms our government after December 12 should be able to see the potential of a Commonwealth initiative in this area. Cannot any party leader take a lead over this?

4. A large number of people in this country, perhaps nowhere more than in Newham, are linked by birth or family background to Commonwealth countries.

5. Giving the Commonwealth a higher profile could be one of the things that helps to bring the country together after the awful divisions of the last few years. While no political party seems to realise its potential, none - except perhaps on the real extremes - is actually against it. And it ought to have an appeal to both leavers and remainers being really global and outward looking yet posing no threat to sovereignty.


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