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MPs meet Archant executives

PUBLISHED: 10:38 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:40 06 July 2010

THE threat that the BBC and other tax-funded media pose to the regional press was one of the key issues outlined by Archant executives when they met a cross-party group of Norfolk MPs at the Commons yesterday to discuss redundancies announced by the company.

THE threat that the BBC and other tax-funded media pose to the regional press was one of the key issues outlined by Archant executives when they met a cross-party group of Norfolk MPs at the Commons yesterday to discuss redundancies announced by the company.

Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson chaired the meeting at which Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings outlined the financial impact of the economic recession on the regional media industry.

He said that the BBC's guaranteed licence fee funding was disproportionate and unfair when commercial rivals were fighting for their lives. He also said the BBC covered local news, sport and events that were the bedrock of local newspapers.

He drew attention to UK advertising trends, demonstrating the severe impact on regional media.

He also lobbied the MPs to relax the local and regional media merger regime which was highlighted by Stephen Carter's Digital Britain interim report published in January this year.

It was against this background that Archant had invested £2m in a new editorial system and training that would make newspaper and digital news gathering more dynamic and efficient, said Mr Jeakings.

Archant Norfolk managing director Stephan Phillips assured the MPs that no reporting jobs would be lost in a proposed restructuring of the newsroom. Where jobs were planned to be cut was in the production area of journalism and management.

He emphasised that the restructuring - which could involve 34 redundancies - was about improving editorial quality as well as efficiency.

Mr Simpson told the meeting that the way the consultation on job losses had initially been handled had been “bad for morale” among senior editorial staff, and emphasised that although he understood Archant was a commercial organisation, the EDP and Evening News “fulfil an important social role and are part of the glue of society”.

Norwich South MP Charles Clarke said at the meeting that he thought a shift of advertising to the web would accelerate. He later said the meeting had been “useful”.

“The leadership of Archant set out the basis of the decisions that have been taken. They gave certain assurances, particularly about chief reporter roles. I will think carefully about what is the appropriate next step to take,” he continued.

Mr Simpson and Mr Clarke said there had been a good atmosphere at the meeting, but Norwich North MP Ian Gibson complained that “there was no real dialogue”.

The meeting was also attended by EDP editor Peter Franzen. Yarmouth MP Tony Wright, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and Norfolk peer Baroness Shephard were also there.

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