Tele launches campaign on soaring prices

Too mundane? Too modest? Too parish pump a response to the credit crunch? I don’t think so. In an initiative that taps into people’s real-life problems, the Belfast Telegraph has launched Pricewatch “ to help you fight your corner against inflation”. Based on proper marketing surveys commissioned from Millward Brown and the Consumer Council, with more from MySupermarket.com and not the usual moans picked up in the street , the Tele is tracking the bad news of rocketing prices (an extra £1,400 a year for a basket of essentials) and reporting the better news, ( how you can save up to £400 a year by shopping around – detailed print-outs available, real nitty-gritty stuff). Today, they’ve caught out Tesco charging five different prices for petrol and diesel at five different sites in Northern Ireland, and Sainsbury’s three. They’ll go on to compare prices between Belfast and London later in the week. Will the Tele be able to claim that the campaign is having a real impact? Readers’ responses will be key. Expect wriggling and counterblasts from the big chains. To really bite the Tele will have to keep Pricewatch going indefinitely and we’ll have to see if they have the stamina. It’ll be interesting to see if the campaign can help arrest the overall downtrend of sales affecting the Telegraph like every other regional paper, down nearly 20,000 in four years to around 75,000 gross today. While you can dig out the basic price facts on the net yourself, it’s much harder to discover the local refinements that really matter. Added to which is the collective punch that a traditional old media newspaper can still pack. Pricewatch is a reminder of the unique campaigning voice of a big regional paper it would be tragic to lose.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London