ANALYSIS: LOBBYING; PPU fights battle of the airwaves

Client: The Newspaper Society PR Team: In-house team and Public Policy Unit Campaign: Amendments to the Broadcasting Bill Timescale: November 1995 - July 1996 Budget: Estimated pounds 15,000

Client: The Newspaper Society

PR Team: In-house team and Public Policy Unit

Campaign: Amendments to the Broadcasting Bill

Timescale: November 1995 - July 1996

Budget: Estimated pounds 15,000



The Broadcasting Bill, described as the most lobbied legislation of this

parliamentary session, is close to receiving Royal assent. Issues like

BSkyB’s TV sports rights and the prevention of newspaper groups with

more than 20 per cent of national circulation from bidding for

independent TV, have received great media attention.



For years, the Newspaper Society - employers’ association for all

regional and local newspapers - has been pushing for the rights of its

members to own radio stations in their core circulation area.



This Bill provided an opportunity to achieve this. But its first draft

in autumn last year did not provide the ‘level playing field’ that the

society was looking for. At the beginning of 1996 it brought in

lobbyists Public Policy Unit to boost its campaign.



Objectives



To ensure that Newspaper Society amendments on cross media ownership

were incorporated into final version of the Bill.



Tactics



The NS’s strategy was to make sure MPs, Lords, civil servants,

Government ministers and potential committee members understood what the

issues were and how they would affect particular newspaper titles.



PPU’s technical and personal knowledge of procedures and members was

engaged to create ‘the texture’ for its campaign.



When the Bill was introduced into the Lords in March 1996, PPU helped

ensure that the NS’s amendments were given an airing by lobbying Lord

McGregor - a member with an interest in the media.



On introduction to the Commons in May, the NS orchestrated heads of

regional papers to provide evidence supporting the amendments.



In preparation, PPU had focused on briefing a smaller number of

Conservative backbenchers who were likely to end up on the Standing

Committee. Four did including Robert Hughes (Harrow West) and Nigel

Evans (Ribble Valley). PPU also helped re-draft briefing materials and

notes on amendments.



Simultaneously, PPU lobbied senior Conservative backbenchers to

influence the Department of National Heritage and cabinet members.



Andrew Lansley, PPU director said: ‘We could have lobbied the Labour

Party, which was broadly sympathetic to our cause, but we didn’t want to

put the Government in a position where it was perceived to be doing a U-

turn. Therefore we concentrated on lobbying the Conservative Party.’



Results



By the time the Bill was introduced into the Commons in May, it was

becoming clear that the amendments were gaining support among

backbenchers and Government.



At the committee stage, Roger Gale MP - chairman of the Conservative

Backbench Media Committee - tabled all the Newspaper Society’s

amendments for debate. The ultimate result of which was that these were

incorporated within the Bill.



Verdict



The tangible achievements of lobbying are always difficult to gauge, but

PPU’s discreet approach, rather than large scale contact, seems to have

provided the edge in influencing the Government to shift its position

without embarrassment.



‘PPU provided a valuable physical and intellectual presence in

Westminster,’ said David Newell deputy director of the NS.



Chris Oakley, chief executive of Midland Independent Newspapers said:

‘It was a very effective campaign that got close to the wire. Amendments

were made at a late stage and I was pleasantly surprised by the

outcome.’



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