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Salford Star fails in council funding appeal

Still no cash for 'critical and cynical' website as row escalates, reports Simon Binns

Written by . Published on July 27th 2010.

Salford Star fails in council funding appeal

Salford City Council has intensified its battle with a local news website, accusing it of being 'overtly political' and 'offensive'.

In papers that went before the council’s cabinet today, the authority claims the Salford Star is too 'critical and cynical' in its coverage of the council.

The Salford Star, now published online, is involved in a long-running spat with the council over funding. Stephen Kingston, director of Salford Star, has unsuccessfully applied for cash from the council’s community committee to reinstate the print edition of the title, which stopped its run in 2007.

He has also publicly criticised the council’s decision to publish its own magazine, Life in Salford, and the lack of independent media in the city.

In papers that went before the council’s cabinet today, the authority claims the Salford Star is too 'critical and cynical' in its coverage of the council and restated its decision not to award funding.

A report from the assistant director of communities and neighbourhoods said the site contained 'constant references about the council that inferred lack of integrity, truth and accountability.'

'Evidence suggests that articles are not balanced, as they focus significantly on the council, rarely about other public bodies and all of the articles presented a critical or cynical view about the council, its decisions or people,' it said.

'The Salford Star appears to be overtly political in nature. Many of its articles and its comment relate directly to political issues and to politicians, local and national...There can be little doubt that the Salford Star prints articles which are of an overtly political nature.'

The council also said that it considered the site 'offensive', referring to an article about an Audit Commission report into Housing in Higher Broughton. 'The Salford Star uses the term “Dickheads” which is clearly aimed at the city council and its partners,' said the report. There were no other incidents of offensive language, it said, and the site had never breached libel laws. It complained, however, that of 22 stories on the site in June, 14 of them were about the council.

'The articles contained within the Salford Star tend to concentrate solely upon one point of view,' said the report. 'The examples quoted above do not appear to promote any alternative viewpoint and thus cannot be seen to take a “balanced approach.”'

Stephen Kingston, editor of Salford Star, said it always gave the council the chance to respond to any stories involving them.

“Of course we’re balanced,” he said. “The journalism we do is legitimate and authentic but we do it with attitude and love.

“Life, the council’s publication, only reports positive stories, so you could argue a lack of balance there.”

Sue Lightup, Salford City Council's strategic director for community, health and social care said: "The council has a city wide network of community committees with devolved funding and the ability to determine how it is spent.

"It is a matter for each community committee to decide how it does this and whether applications meet the criteria for funding.

"We received our first application from a publication for community committee funding in 2007 and as a result we put in place some guidelines so that we can demonstrate fairness and transparency when deciding on funding applications.

"These are the same guidelines we're using today and all applications for funding are considered as part of a formal process involving the relevant community committees. “

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JohnJuly 28th 2010.

Well, the report at least confirms that calling the Council "Dickheads" isn't in any way libellous

Bob the ButcherJuly 31st 2010.

Why would Salford council fund a magazine that slated them in every edition. Biggest non-story of the year.

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