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Saving the Observer

Support Press Gazette's campaign and protect media pluralism

Thomas Jefferson once declared: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter." Jefferson was right; newspapers are an essential, not an optional, part of a healthy public realm.

With this in mind, I'd urge you all to support Press Gazette's campaign to save the Observer after the title was threatened with closure by the Guardian Media Group.

The loss of the Observer would leave the Independent on Sunday, whose own future is far from secure, as the only quality liberal-left title in the Sunday market.

The Independent on Sunday's circulation was down 19.98 per cent year-on-year in the latest ABCs and its parent company, Independent News and Media, may buckle under the weight of an overdue £179.6m loan.

The Sunday Times (up 2.74 per cent year-on-year), which will shortly launch a stand-alone website, may be seen by some as a guarantee of quality journalism but it has shifted considerably to the right since the days of Harold Evans.

All newspapers are running to stand still as readers, particularly the youngest, migrate to the internet. In the UK the last recession claimed three papers: Rupert Murdoch's Today, the News on Sunday and the left-wing Sunday Correspondent. It is naive to believe that this recession could not sound the death knell for a similar number of titles.

I have long thought that the government should emulate a scheme planned by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He has promised to introduce a programme that will offer every 18-year-old a free subscription to a newspaper of their choice, ensuring that some will catch the reading bug early on.

Labour ministers should view Sarkozy's intervention with more than mere curiosity. They more than most have an interest in guarding media pluralism.