NMA Responds to Business Rates Consultation for Local Press

The News Media Association has agreed with the Government that the beneficiaries of business rates relief should be traditional local newspapers publishers, adding that the relief should apply to “all properties which are involved in the production of local newspapers.”   

In its response to the consultation which closed yesterday (Wednesday), the NMA also welcomed the Government’s commitment in the 2015 Budget and Conservative Party Manifesto to support local newspapers.

The Ministerial foreword jointly authored by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “We want to understand better the challenges currently faced by local newspapers occupying property in their local areas and whether a relief on their business rates bills could help support them.”

The NMA submission said: “Local newspapers perform a vital democratic role, covering local issues, scrutinising local public bodies and holding the powerful to account. They serve bigger and more engaged audiences than ever before and remain the most trusted source of information. 

“Local media organisations face challenges on various fronts: a competitive BBC, competing local council ‘newspapers’, the threat of the removal of public notices, reduced government advertising spend, reduced print advertising revenues and the ongoing transition to multiplatform publishing.

“The NMA represents local media publishers who differ greatly in size, some publishers occupying fewer than five properties and others occupying 80 plus offices and news sites.

“The NMA believes that business rates relief should apply to all properties which are involved in the production of local newspapers, irrespective of the type of property occupied or the size of publisher.

“Some of our members still have properties in town centres and it is important that they continue, where possible, to have a presence on the high street so they remain central to the communities they serve.”

The NMA recommended that if business rates relief was administered by local authorities, “a national mechanism should be put in place to ensure that all local publishers were treated uniformly. This would help safeguard against the possibility of local authorities discriminating against local publishers for advertising or editorial reasons.”