Time’s up for Greenwich Time?

Council-backed newspapers like Greenwich Time could be under threat after a government report called for an inquiry into them. The demand comes in the Digital Britain report, which looks at how the UK media will respond to technological changes over the next few decades. According to journalists’ trade paper Press Gazette:

In his Digital Britain report, communications minister Stephen Carter invited the Audit Commission to look at “the prevalance of this practice, its impact and to make recommendations on best practice and if restraints should be placed on local authority activity in this field”.

“While local authority information sheets can serve a useful purpose for local residents and businesses, they will inevitably not be as rigorous in holding local institutions to account as independent local media,” the Digital Britain report said today.

It’s not just the woeful Greenwich Time that’s caused anger – Conservative-run Hammersmith & Fulham and Labour-controlled Tower Hamlets have upset local newspaper owners in their own areas with their own publications. Currybetdotnet has a round-up of what each London borough does, together with some arguments for and against them. Greenwich and Tower Hamlets are the only councils to publish weeklies.

With the Digital Britain report generally in favour of helping big media firms get used to the future, it could be that the clock is ticking for Greenwich borough’s version of Pravda if it doesn’t reform itself sharpish.


  1. Personally I don’t really see a future for Greenwich Time – it REALLY exists only for one thing – to big-up the actvities of the council. If that part of it is removed, I don’t really see why the council would continue to fund it.

    I’m happy to read the odd good-news story – hell – I write ’em myself. But Greenwich Time would have us believe we live in some kind of Community Garden Utopia, populated by Young Olympic Hopefuls, cheery disabled hip hop stars and people who like to pose for photographs whilst dangling items of recycling over the correct wheelie bin.

    Still, it’s done my scrapbook of Chris Roberts photos no harm at all. I’m onto Volume Three already and it’s only June. But then that’s a private thing, my own personal obsession…

  2. My big problem with Greenwich Time is that nowhere on its masthead does it state that it is a publication of Greenwich Council.

    I consider this serious misinformation.

    Delivering a publication that on the surface appears to be a regular, unbiased free ‘newspaper’ is absolutely wrong.

    Being a council mouthpiece, this is totally biased.

    Never have I read of a council initiative that has failed, shoddy roads or parking nightmares – but I did see a front page article dressing down the mayor (conservative) for calling off the proposed new Thames road bridge due to budget/traffic issues.

    This newspaper should be impartial, not a place for scoring party political points via the council (majority labour).

    I have written to councillors on this subject in the past and my response from the editor, securing her own position was that it is a vital organ for delivering community news and totally unbiased.

    Information on housing etc? Send a monthly single A4 newsletter to well targeted ‘clients’ instead.

    Pointless tripe printed at our expense, headed directly for the recycling bin.


  3. Having worked for the BBC 853, I’m surprised you keep attacking council newspapers for causing the demise of local newspapers. After all wasn’t it the BBC that was forced to cut back on your localised web coverage for the fact they were killing off local newspapers 🙂

    As for Greenwich Time I’m actually glad I get it.

    Why? Because it is the only paper that I get through my door. None of the other papers seem to care about delivering their paper to me. And this is a sorry state of affairs that seems to be the case for most of my friends to.

    So whilst I know that Greenwich Time is a council newspaper – and see the coverage for what it is – it also keeps me in touch with what is going on in the borough with the large coverage it gives to local community news.

    And if you dont agree with their coverage – write in and complan. Chances are they will print your letter as the letters page seems to be very balanced. And I sent in a critical letter and even won their letter of the week.

    But I’m also glad I get the paper as it means I get to see what the council is doing to improve local services with my tax payers money. I moved here from bexley and believe me you are lucky to get two magazines a year there and dont have a clue what bexley are doing with your money!

    This situation is made worse as none of the local papers are local anymore. A sad state of affairs indeed.

  4. Hello James. I’m not sure who you’ve worked for in the past – I once worked for Greenwich Council, you know. Anyway, the BBC wasn’t forced to cut back on localised web coverage; its own governing body threw out plans to create local TV services on the web. My own opinion at the time, and it stays the same now, is that the BBC’s ultra-local offerings were so weak anyway that they would not have been a threat to anyone in the model that was proposed. In another post on Wednesday I proposed a way forward, but you’ve ignored that, but that’s fine.

    I’m pleased you and your friends applaud Greenwich Time whenever it pops through your letterbox. I wonder, could you enlighten me on the critical letter you wrote?

    And as for Bexley’s magazines – was that before or after that council changed hands at the last election? I notice that Lewisham has a Labour authority but makes do on a handful of magazines each year.

  5. Hmm, I doubt your letter was overly critical.

    I wrote and highlighted that the masthead did not state clearly that it was a publication of the council etc etc.

    Not a dicky bird of this letter emerged in print.

    Maybe they only respond or give you copy space if they can easily defend their position or deal with an issue.

    Personally I cannot see why my enquiry wasn’t dealt with by simply including the line ‘A Greenwich Council Publication’ in clear letters under the masthead.

    That would be the right thing to do – and Labour councillor Alex Grant agrees with me. (He responded swiftly)

    I am neither fascist nor communist but people should know where information is coming from.

  6. Mark – I dont work for the council (before anyone slings that accusation my way) and like I say I dont think Greenwich Time is perfect.

    However it clearly states on page 2 that Greenwich Time is produced by Greenwich Council. You’ll see that by the list of journalists names at the bottom of the page.

    It also states it on the imprint on the back page.

    When they answer letters – like mine – attacking the council it is also clear to see who produces it.

    So I dont think it is fair to suggest that they try and hide who produces it.

    853 – Bexley has always produced a poor and infrequent magazine regardless of the political leadership. And like I say no one local gets to hear what the council does for local people – a problem that is made worse by the fact local papers don’t devolve that information either.

    Mark – are you sure you sent your letter to Greenwich Time and not your local councillor. I cant see why your local councillor would respond otherwise as they would not be involved in the process of choosing which letters are printed.

    You can submit your letter via this link – and whether it is critical or otherwise you could even win a pair of tickets to see CAFC like I did.


    I mean ok they are only League 1 now – but its still our local club 🙂

  7. Perhaps if you read the paper you might just actually know.

    Is your question aimed at suggesting that critical letters dont appear in the paper?

  8. Unfortunately, I don’t have a leather-bound set of GT back issues. What was your letter about, James?

  9. Unfortunately under the current regime Greenwich Time seems to be largely unaccountable to councillors.

    As a local councillor (Lib Dem) I recently suggested that the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committeee should review things like the relationship with the local commercial media, content, frequency of publication and the potential for political bias. I was supported by Conservatives but voted down by the somnolent Labour majority.

    At least the change from fortnightly to alomost weekly publication co-incided with the arrival of Tony Lord as star columnist in place of Chris Roberts. Let’s be grateful for small mercies.

  10. Sorry James but the masthead should state clearly that it is a council publication.

    It’s not good enough to declare it somewhere on page 2.

    To the casual browser it looks like any other independent free paper and it isn’t.

    I sent my letter of complaint to the editor and councillor Roberts. I received a defensive response from the editor.

    I also submitted it to The Westcombe news web group. Alex Grant to his credit was the first to reply, followed by the conservative councillors.

  11. Where can I find the Westcombe News web group, Mark? Sounds like something I’d like to take a look at…

  12. Oh gawd… it was so long ago now it’s probably fallen off the list. No doubt it’s there somewhere.

    I suppose I could post it here but it’s a bit too lengthy to park on a forum.

    Essentially it makes the points I already have here – and the profusion of sickly sweet good news stories with little controversy or failed initiatives.

  13. Ah, it was the group itself I was after; was feeling in a nosy mood and fancied subscribing. If they’ll take an oik from Charlton.

    Credit to Alex Grant for replying; mind you, his dad runs the Westcombe News so the poor bloke can’t win!

  14. Ah, thank you.

    Given the family connection, it’s probably a bit awkward for them. But also the WN and GT don’t really compete – the Westcombe News circulation area is pretty small and it has a pretty tough and self-defined set of priorities, and people will trust it (or at least be able to judge it) because they know where it comes from.

    I’d imagine the information in a Westcombe News will be seen as infinitely more valuable than GT because it’s much more relevant to their lives – news of that neglected wild space in Mycenae Road will be far more interesting than a day centre in Abbey Wood, for example.

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