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Independent Research Highlights Public Concern about Traffic Advertising Proposals

The NS met with the Transport Minister Norman Baker yesterday (Wednesday) and presented him with new research from GfK NOP showing that local newspapers are still by far the most effective way of informing the public about traffic changes and that local people are concerned about government proposals to abolish the requirement for local authorities to advertise traffic notices in local papers.

The research found that 64 per cent of adults, and 65 per cent of drivers, are concerned about potential changes to the current regulations meaning that such information would no longer need to be published in local newspapers.

Published for the first time today, the nationally representative research from GfK NOP found that the vast majority of people expect to be made aware of traffic changes through their printed local newspaper and less than three per cent of the population used council websites to find such information.

The NS believes the proposals to remove the statutory obligation for councils to publish Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) in local newspapers pose a dangerous threat to the public’s right to know as councils would rely on their own websites and site notices to advertise traffic orders rather than trusted local newspapers.  

More than two-thirds of the population (69 per cent) think it is important they are made aware of planned changes to local traffic routes. This is particularly true among drivers (74 per cent) and those who drive to work (82 per cent).

Eight times as many people have read a newspaper in the past week than have looked at their council website (32 million v 4 million adults). Twenty-nine per cent of all adults (and 21 per cent of drivers) haven't accessed the internet at all in the last 12 months meaning that advertising TROs online only would exclude 14 million UK residents, including many poorer members of society.

Local papers are spontaneously cited as the way in which most people (39 per cent) expect to be informed about traffic changes, even more than next placed street signs (26 per cent).

When prompted, 79 per cent of all adults (and 81 per cent of all drivers) expect to be made aware of traffic changes in their printed local paper - second only to street signs (83 per cent and 88 per cent) and well ahead of leaflets, radio, council offices, council website (47 per cent and 53 per cent), and London Gazette (10 per cent and 8 per cent).

Only 34 per cent of all internet users have visited their local council website in the last 12 months - and of those, only 36 per cent visited it in the last seven days. Only 11 per cent of those who looked at their council website in the last 12 months visited it to look for information about planned traffic changes (just 2.6 per cent of the population and 3.8 per cent of all drivers).

Local papers are considered more trustworthy and up to date than either local commercial radio or council websites, the research found.

Stacey Hand, research manager, Media & Entertainment, GfK NOP, said: "Our research, among a nationally representative sample of 1000 UK residents, found that being advised about changes to traffic regulation and roadworks is important to the majority of the public.

"Local newspapers remain an important way in which to advertise traffic regulation orders. Local newspapers have a reach which exceeds that of either local commercial radio or local council websites, two alternative advertising vehicles suggested by local councils.

"Local newspapers are also considered signficantly more up-to-date and trustworthy than either local commercial radio or local council websites. Importantly, local newspapers allow non-internet users the ability to access traffic regulation orders – our research found that 68 per cent of all non-internet users had read a local newspaper within the last seven days."

The Government is currently consulting on the issue and the deadline for submissions is on Monday (23 April).

MPs across the UK have written to Norman Baker to register their concerns about the proposal. The issue may be raised by MPs at a Westminster Hall debate on the future of local newspapers which is due to take place at 4pm on Wednesday 25th April.

  • The Transport Minister recently urged local authorities to take on board the principles of the Pot Hole Review in order to communicate clearly and effectively with local communities on road repairs. The review recommends the use of local media. (see In Brief)

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.