Statutory Notices for the 21st Century

When, in the opening pages of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the people of Earth protest about the planned demolition of their planet, Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz replies:

There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

Moments before this Arthur Dent, the hero of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s books, had learned that his house was being demolished by the local council. They too had done their best to tell him. Honest.

In the UK we currently rely on local newspapers to appraise people of this sort of thing through small classified ads known as statutory notices. As local newspapers fold, and as the papers that survive are accused of over-inflating the costs of these ads which cash strapped local authorities are obligated to take out, the Department for Communities and Local Government has put the whole thing up for review.

So that’s statutory notices then, ready for disruption. It’s going to be a tough one to sort out. I’ve got something of an interest in this, related to my PhD work, which I’ve outlined more fully on the BCMCR blog.


By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: