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.
To ensure that Newspaper Society amendments on cross media ownership
were incorporated into final version of the Bill.
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.’
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.
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
‘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