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Sir John Whittingdale supports Nub News in Parliament

By Max Goodman

9th Dec 2022 | Local News

Sir John Whittingdale
Sir John Whittingdale

FORMER Cabinet media minister and Nub News reader Sir John Whittingdale has called on the government to ensure it supports local online news platforms and uses their effectiveness as a way of informing communities.

Sir John, who represents Maldon in Essex, is regularly featured on the pages of his local Nub News site and is a keen advocate of ensuring the government recognises the value of online media. The growing success of Nub News – which this week launched its latest platform serving Stoke - has seen the company grow since launching with just a few sites in 2018 to now publishing to more than 50 local communities across the UK, including our own Helston Nub News.

Sir John says he has watched the company's success with great interest and has spoken many times with company founder Karl Hancock and he is hoping to persuade the government to make more use of the Nub News sites and other locally founded and sourced news online news platforms.

In the House of Commons today (Thursday, 8 December) Sir John challenged fellow Essex MP and junior minister Alex Burghart about his view of locally-based publishers and asked: "What recent assessment have you made of the effectiveness of Government information campaigns in local media?"

Mr. Burghart, MP for Brentwood and Ongar and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office with responsibility for supporting the cabinet regarding the government's communications service, responded by saying: "The government monitors the effectiveness of its communications campaigns and we recognise the enormous trust the public has in local media.

"And therefore the important role it plays in spreading our messages.

"As just one example, the recent press partnership on access to NHS services used local media to inform the public of where to seek medical advice. 67 per cent of readers said they trusted the articles - highlighting local print's importance to the community."

That prompted an immediate challenge from Sir John, who wanted an assurance that online media will get fair treatment.

He said: "My friend is absolutely right about the power of local media in getting across vital health messages.

"But will he look at ensuring that local online-only publishers like Nub News are included in future campaigns as well as local print media?"

Mr. Burghart responded: "I thank my honourable friend for his question, I know he knows a great deal about this subject. And I completely agree with him that, all in, all together in harness, the power of media was particularly effective at reaching specific audiences to spread vital information.

"Obviously as he will appreciate, sometimes we want a more targeted approach so that we get better, cost-effectiveness but I should also say to him that we use OmniGov, and should any local outlets online or otherwise wish to be part of that list they can do so by contacting OmniGov directly."

OmniGov, which is owned by US agency giant Omnicom, has handled the government's media services account since 2018 and in December last year retained the account for a second four-year term. The contract is one of the most valuable accounts in British advertising, with an annual spend of more than £200m.

However, not everyone is a fan of the agency, including Sir John who told Nub News that he has been expressing his concern about its effectiveness in reaching local communities and supporting smaller publishers for almost two years.

He said: "I have repeatedly pressed them to include online publications and was deeply frustrated that they were unwilling to do so"

"This is a significant issue and my questions today were just a part of it. Now I have raised it with Alex Burghart in the House, I will be following up with him to press this matter and seek change to support organisations like Nub News."

Nub News founder Karl Hancock, welcomed Sir John's support today and thanked him for raising the matter, which Mr Hancock has also previously raised direct when appearing before the government's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee alongside other leading media industry figures earlier this year

He said: "I am grateful for the support and advice of Sir John. It is refreshing to see his passion to see a fairer and more level playing field in the media publishing world where the pressure from a few big players makes market fairness and opportunity disproportionate.

"As I have said before, the current business model is broken. Something drastic has to happen. I'm not asking the Government for money, I'm asking for a level playing field.

"I look forward to seeing the outcome of Sir John's challenge and questions today."

Meanwhile, the growth of Nub News which is committed to putting local news back at the top of the news agenda in towns across the UK continues apace.

The latest addition – and a new flagship site for the growing Crewe-based media company – is Stoke Nub News.

Edited by Stoke-born journalist Sarah Garner, Nub News' latest site exemplifies the ethos of Nub News and our headline agenda of putting local news and community support first, while supporting and promoting local businesses, traders, and entrepreneurs.

Mr. Hancock added: "The group continues to seek to consolidate in its existing towns and grow them exponentially towards neighbouring towns and communities and there are more new town launches planned.

"As well as providing a regularly updated, easy-to-read news platform free from clickbait, pop-ups, and intrusive surveys we harness the power of social media, with easy-to-follow channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Millions of readers each month are visiting Nub News in all its formats.

"We hope that's the message the government will be taking on board after today's debate in the Commons."

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