Monday, June 13, 2011

Thanet council discriminates against free press

You have to admire the depths local government members and officers will sink to, in the approach they have toward "media".

Still the latest creation of that inventive mind, that officers have, is that from now on, they will no longer email  press releases, to those they consider not to be "mainstream" news outlets, quite how they interpret this is simple, organisations that are likely to at some time receive income in the form of advertising from the council will get preferential treatment.

Now in itself this is not a big deal, as they informed me, the information will be available via their RSS feed, so no big loss, however this is the sinister bit "If you have any requests for information in the future, please could you send these through as any enquiries sent through to the press office in the future will be sent on to this address for actioning.

Local tory councillors have suggested in the past, that bloggers are irresponsible, which in the main is just an untrue slur, I know that I have in the past contacted the council for clarification, before "going off on one", and have sometimes modified my comment accordingly.

I can understand how inconvenient it must be to have elements of the media, who write purely to enlighten themselves and others into the machinations of local government.

Times have moved on, still what can we do if officers of Thanet District Council get into their heads that their are two truths, two sets of media, however the reality is this newspapers and broadcasters are losing journalists everyday, I'd take a guess that with the exception of the Isle of Thanet Gazette & Thanet Times, other newspapers have less political coverage than several of the local bloggers.

Of course the stupidity of this is that it cost nothing to send an email to one recipient in time or money as it would to a million.

Anyway have a gander while you still can.

TDC Press Release Mailing List

As you will no doubt be aware, local government in line with the rest of the public sector, is experiencing tough times and resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Thanet District Council is no exception to this. As a result, the council has been looking carefully at how all its resources are used. Following a review of the service offered by the council's Press Office, it has been agreed that we will be changing our approach in the future to concentrate our resources on the mainstream media.

We are contacting you as you are on the council's current mailing list for press releases. This was set up some time ago, when the e-mail list was the only way to subscribe to receive the council's press releases. This is no longer the case, as the council now has an RSS news feed available for people to sign up to as well as regular updates to press releases published on the TDC Website. Since the RSS feed was first introduced, we have been pointing people towards this and the website, rather than adding them to our e-mail group for press releases.

In light of this, we have reviewed the people that our press releases are being distributed to and, with the availability of RSS feeds, we are now reducing this list to cover mainstream newspapers, radio and TV only, in line with our new approach. As a result, we will be shortly removing you from the press release mailing list.

If you would like to continue to receive our press releases, you can subscribe to our RSS news feed by visiting:

For any additional help with how to do this, please visit:

Our latest press releases can all be found at:
If you have any requests for information in the future, please could you send these through as any enquiries sent through to the press office in the future will be sent on to this address for actioning.

Kind regards,
Justine Wingate
Corporate Information & Communications Manager
Business Services
Thanet District Council
PS I thought I'd check this out, the ensuing phone call took around 18 minutes, a call that would not have taken place or wasted "officer time" were the council not being so petty! 


  1. You'd think that since we live in an age where most local newspapers are run on a skeleton crew, with statistics suggesting that nationally the number of journalists is on the wane and that the newspaper industry is in decline, that most press departments would concede that it's only fair that citizen journalism steps in to fill the void, wouldn't you?

    I would argue it's hardly a hindrance to add bloggers to mailing lists. Perhaps it's to do with a worry over how it'll impact on their reputation if a blogger makes a negative post - but then again, how exactly is the local mainstream media offering them any assurances of positive publicity either? How can they be sure a press release sent to the Gazette won't backfire on them in some way, for instance? I don't think they can.

    Let's face it, journalists never shy away from from dishing out criticism and making negative headlines about local government if they think it'll sell, so the suggestion that it's better to favour 'mainstream media' over bloggers is very peculiar, to say the least.

    [Cross-posted from Michael Child's Thanet Online blog]

  2. Sounds like a good idea to me! Information is available via an RSS feed to you, me and everyone else as happens elsewhere. Mailing lists are a bit 'Old hat' now that we live in a 'Twittering' universe of real time events. So best load-up Tweet-deck, point at the RSS feed and take the news in much the same way as anyone else rather than be 'outraged of Margate.'

  3. Simon I have no doubt you approve of discrimination against the free flow of information.

    You were as I recall much in favour of gagging councillors in the past with a laughable blogging protocol.

    This latest episode and a typical example of petty abuse for political reasons of public funds.

  4. Until we get rid of little tory twerps like .....

    This is the sort sh*t will go on

  5. Simon I think the key here is news not olds, lets take last Thursday as an example, the council announces by press release that the cabinet has been reshuffled, I publish it at about half an hour later you write a blog post about it and you link to the press release I have published. About six hours later the council manage to get it on their website, which feeds to your blog.

    As for the council’s tweets!/ThanetCouncil the feed on them has been broken for the last three days.

    I also have to say that the conventional local media are not perhaps all they could be, the local TV media seldom make it to Thanet they seem to think the world stops at Canterbury, the local papers; the Gazettes website seems to have sunk, Your Thanet seems to have turned into an advertising website……..

  6. I'm afraid that we will have to accept Tony's cynicism as 'read' if you'll forgive the pun and to be honest what he chooses to believe, now or in the future is really his problem and not mine.

    Michael's release I simply pointed blogger to blogger as it popped up on my sidebar with other stories with no other motive at the time.

    The blogging protocol you refer to was eminently sensible, reasoned and the consequence of proper legal advice on how a councillor, governed by standards in public life, should behave online. You will note that a particular councillor who chose to ignore such good advice is no longer among us and his blog is as silent as Monty Python's 'dead parrot.'

    Anyway,I'm sure that using the resources the council makes available, will not hinder citizen journalists in their thrilling pursuit of subjects of real local importance such 'who is the sexiest councillor' or indeed how many votes the three LibDem candidates garnered outside of their immediate family members!?

  7. Simon, quite a few of us are aware of your own standards, which I've commented on before so lets no go down that road, you are one of lifes side issues.

    This thread is about freedom of information and the councils attempt to discriminate.

    Just as I wouldn't respect some snide opportunist, as an arbiter of standards in public life I don't think TDC ought to rule on what or what is not mainstream media.

    I just wonder if this is some diversion from things more important.

    Coming back to you Simon, you write in what I take as condescending and sarcastic terms about citizen journalism, oblivious to you own talents.

  8. Simon of all the potty answers, you couldn’t have pointed it at the council website press release page because the press release wasn’t there, sometimes council press releases have taken ten days to appear on their website. Often the have published a press release about a forthcoming event and the council haven’t managed to get it on their website and to tweet it until after the event has happened.

    What do you want me to do just shut down the Thanet press release blog that we all use? Without the council press releases there isn’t much point in it. Perhaps you would like to write the final post.

    You could direct people to the council’s website or the Gazette’s website.

    As a councillor are you really saying you would prefer me to publish the material I do without first checking with the council, perhaps you mean I should wait for a month for the foi process, just what do you want here?

    Perhaps the advertising revenue paid to the local papers by the council is the clue to this, if the council were paying me a few thousand pounds perhaps I would be more circumspect in what I publish.

  9. I wouldn't wish to lecture you Tony. You are a relatively new arrival to the benefits of blogging and social media and fill a useful, larger than life gap in the market; where the most simple facts are deliberated with the concentration of Quantum theory.

  10. Simon I don’t understand why if you regard Tony’s blog in such low esteem you should chose it as a medium to vent your opinion on this subject, perhaps you could explain this quantum theory you use as a parallel to the debate here.

  11. God he gets more pompous by the hour. Dr M, wtf do you know about Quantum Mechanics (not Theory) - actually thinking about it TDC exemplifies the Pauli exclusion principle.
    We have long agreed that the TDC website is not fit for purpose - even Dr M has sort of acknowledged it. The RSS feed is just as unreliable so I can only surmise that the newly elected Council don't want to tell us anything.
    I notice that Dr M hasn't commented on this subject on Michael's blog - presumably he hates Michael less that he hates Tony.

  12. Simon more than once have you made remarks which I consider derogatory,even at a council meeting you made a remark which I found offensive.

    I've been blogging for five years, continuously, admittedly inspired after you, went on about your website at a meeting called to discuss the TC gallery.

    Intrigued I looked it up, it was just a blog which of course this is, only better.

    Simon you spread your self thin security expert, pilot, journo, computer whatever and still you don't impress me.

    I think in terms of ranking bloggers Michael is probably the tops these days, and makes valid points


  13. What an obnoxious commentator this Simon appears to be. Just because he may have been blogging longer does not make him a better blogger than say Luke. Maybe a FOI request is required asking TDC for the list of recipients left on its list and how much it costs per recipient? Call their bluff on costs grounds.

  14. Maybe an FoI request on Dr Moores real qualifications

  15. You don't realise how much this blog makes me laugh!

    As for Quantum whotsits.. coincidentally, I'm giving a lecture on the future of Quantum computing this week. Enough said!

    So let's recap for a moment. Tony, Luke and Michael are getting bent out of shape because along with everyone else, me included, they aren't on the council press release list. Neither are most of the hundred or so other equally valid weblogs in Thanet. So do tell me why you or I should deserve special treatment from local government press officers for no other reason than you run a weblog and think you should be treated specially? I certainly don't and neither do blogging councilors like David Green

    No other council I'm aware of treats bloggers with special privileges, so just remember gentlemen, it's a hobby, sometimes an obsession but a personal view none the less!

  16. I must say, Simon, I have never been on any mailing list for the council's press releases so this decision makes little difference to me. It won't affect how I plan to use my blog in the future. I've been a big adherent of RSS feeds for a long time anyway.

    But I do think it's a bit insulting to local bloggers to favour the local press at their behest in line with a supposed 'new approach', seemingly built on the rather elitist assumption that print publishers or TV/radio broadcasters are somehow more respectable than online channels. I feel this is bonkers, especially since the web is burgeoning with new and innovative ways to allow the public to spread information and communicate with one another.

    If that's being 'bent out of shape' then by all means you're welcome to think that. I, however, feel differently.

  17. So where does it stop Luke?

    You have accredited media and you have hundreds of bloggers. What is the role of local government and very importantly, who pays for the resources involved?

    Instead, by using RSS, Twitter and other means of communication the information is as readily available as ever before to those who might wish for it!

  18. How simple do you want it Simon, it costs nothing to leave me and the maybe a dozen or so bloggers, in the group of recipients receiving the odd email along with other mainstream media.

    I suggest you are in dire need of some training in basic use of electronic media.

    Perhaps if you have any use Simon it would be to let us know who made this incredibly stupid decision.

    I guess only a handful of bloggers ever contact the press office.

    It's hard not to conclude that the Tory group have ticked the box requesting no publicity.

  19. The "accredited media" Moores flatteringly refers to is now so discredited it is losing readers and audiences right and left. As a result it is now completely dependent upon corporate and government (aren't they the the same?) handouts.

    It has emerged that media giants were among the recipients of the 2008 TARP bailout money, so ultimately the taxpayer is still paying for this garbage. Remember, the TARP bailout programme was ostensibly sold as emergency measures to keep people in their homes, a lie that was quickly swept aside as soon as the bill was passed.

    I agree with Tony that there is a sinister element to this latest move, but to me it also smacks of desperation. No doubt Doctor Quantum had a hand in its implementation.

  20. Think what you like Tony, this kind of thing is not a political decision but simply an administrative local government issue.

    In case you haven't noticed, the RSS feed that you can place on your blog sidebar carries those same press releases and so rather than having to collect an email it will appear automatically in Google Reader or your weblog the moment it appears. Now think about that for a moment. No end to freedom of speech, no political motive at all and simply using the technology to make the news release quicker to anyone who might want the details without having to build-up quite unnecessary email lists.

    So a complete, alarmist non-story, which is par for the course and an equally practical cost effective solution where news gathering is involved by interested bloggers!

  21. To quote Simon:

    "The blogging protocol you refer to was eminently sensible, reasoned and the consequence of proper legal advice on how a councillor, governed by standards in public life, should behave online. You will note that a particular councillor who chose to ignore such good advice is no longer among us and his blog is as silent as Monty Python's 'dead parrot.'"

    You seem to imply that his de-selection is the result of a failure to adhere to a TDC blogging protocol.

    Correct me if my memory is wrong. I thought that Standards found no breach and that you dropped a threatened legal action ?

  22. If the information is readily available by RSS then TDC can stop the emails to everybody and they can tell us how much this measure is saving. Unless of course as Tony suspects its a bit more sinister and you scratch my back and we will scratch yours.

  23. Just to ensure you know about this Tony.

    HM Coroner has provided her prepared transcripts of evidence given at the Inquest 5th Jan 2010 into the murder of David O'Leary at his house in Valley Road Margate 1st March 2008.

    These transcripts are subject of HM Coroner copyright. HM Coroner has issued consent for them to be used in an action in Thanet County Court against Chief constable brought by Dan O'Leary (father of the murder victim)

    Because copies have been filed with other parties (police and others) I cannot control the possible distribution. If any of it is sent to you don't publish.

    I have applied to HM Coroner for permission to use the evidence in complaint against Kent Police to IPCC. And I have informed HM Coroner that I think police evidence misled the inquest.

    I have also emailed the editor of Thanet Gazette to say that their Jan 2010 report of inquest proceedings was misleading. To such an extent I believe it may have staunched a flow of possible information which would have been of use in finding the killer.

    I am asking the police to check whether officers visited a factory in October 2008 and whether this had anything to do with an ex Thanet tory cllr being made redundant a couple of weeks later.

    You may recall the blogs of the time about Sericol and cyclohexanone contamination of aquifer and questions whether the former Sericol "Senior site safety engineer" (A tory cllr) had forged engineering qualifications and whether he had been left unscathed by police and thereby sauntered into another engineering job ?

    You may recall that concerns were raised about the possible use of cyclohexonanone in back street drugs factories (To make Angel dust) and pretty much as soon as this featured on blogs (and an email to Kent Police Authority suggested police should quickly track the stolen cyclohexonone trail information)that a five storey cannabis growing factory in Margate suddenly burnt down ?

    And you may recall the tragic death of Pc Eley in 2008 hit by a train near the closed 6th Thanet gun range. And the questions about the use of the range, when Eley was the rural beat officer responsible for it, for unlawful paramilitary live fire training.

    And those questions too touched on forged qualifications and obtaining employ by deception (such as at civilian security Deal Royal Marines Barracks 1989).

    Strange isn't it. There were those various questions (Sericol, cyclohexonone thefts, aquifer contamination, paramilitary activity, forged military and engineering qualifications, 6th Thanet gun range) and almost as if police mounted a quick cover up (to head off a potential crime complaint of obtaining further employ by deception aided and abetted by police) a former tory cllr is selected for redundancy ......

    Oooh that should head off a crime complaint then eh ? Don't hold yer breath waiting for police to answer.

    There is a little question (not subject of copyright) in the David O'Leary murder case. It is a question about housing benefits frauds and money laundering via the acquisition and subsequent remortgaging of buy to let investments.

    I almost sense a reluctance in TDC to investigate ..... mmmm

    I don't know whether gifted or loaned house purchase deposits are a sensitive subject amongst some tory cllrs ?

    Standards in public life. I should say so. Rather a good idea.

  24. Well that killed it Rick

  25. Let's have a think about other regimes that have tried to restrict access to information......

  26. This sounds like an invitation to submit a FOI request to find out exactly how much money has been saved...