Colin Farrington accused the NLA – which offers companies the rights to copy and distribute press articles on behalf of publishers – of seeking ‘to make access to information more difficult’.
He added: ‘We must defend that right of freedom of information. The right to create information and the right to distribute that information is being restricted.’
The long-running row centres on a belief among PR professionals that the NLA’s eClips – a central database of electronically scanned articles from 25 national publications – has been set up as a cash cow for revenue-threatened publishers.
During the heated debate, Jeremy Thompson, MD of media evaluation service Durrants called for increased regulation of the NLA, more transparency, and revised pricing models.
David Pugh, the recently-installed MD of NLA conceded it needed to change, but added: ‘I believe passionately that newspaper content should be charged for.’
He admitted that publishing content to intranets is not appropriately covered and said the company had been ‘heavy handed’ when it started in 1996. The NLA was established by eight national newspaper groups and represents over 1,300 UK newspapers.