THERE was one issue which all the candidates agreed on - the important role of regional media.

Gazette publisher Bill Browne put the final question to the panel, as to whether established regional media should be supported in the UK against the impact of unregulated digital media platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Mrs Marchant said: “If a journalist goes and gets a really good story and the paper pays for it, the paper doesn’t get the digital money back.”

Mr Stone pointed out that he is probably the only candidate who advertises regularly in the local paper, adding: “We must keep them going because they tell us what’s happening locally.”

“Without it we would have a weaker democracy so it’s in all our interest to have a vibrant press,” was the response from Mrs Miller, who also highlighted the 200 local papers which have closed in the last 10 years, adding: “A lot is to do with the role of Google and Facebook. The advertising revenue isn’t going with local papers. It’s going with search engines.”

Mr Mylvaganam agreed, and added: “I wouldn’t like to see the local media killed off.”

While Mr Jenkin said the Green party’s manifesto includes plans to give grants to the local press, adding: “It’s pretty obvious that we need to save local papers.”

It comes after the Liberal Democrats printed and posted a false local newspaper titled the Mid Hampshire Gazette to homes across Hampshire.