NMA Calls For Government Support For ‘Fourth Emergency Service’ News Media Sector During the Coronavirus Crisis

The News Media Association has called on the Government to support the news media sector which is acting as a “fourth emergency service” during the coronavirus crisis by providing independent, verifiable news and information to the public.

In a submission to Government this week, the NMA said that the crisis posed a grave threat to some publishers because of sharp declines in advertising and some would not survive beyond the next few months without swift intervention.

The NMA said: “There is an urgent need for immediate financial and operational support for all UK news publishers, national, regional and local. Maintaining the flow of essential news while avoiding extensive job losses and title closures would be beneficial to the public purse and society in the long-term.”

The NMA outlined a series of financial and operational interventions which are “essential to ensure news publishers continue to operate,” including:

  • Committing to divert Government media spend to newspapers (online and print, national and local) to ensure key public information messages are communicated to readers through an immediate and sustained advertising campaign;
  • Extending the 100 per cent business rates holiday offered to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses to news providers and deferring employer taxes, PAYE/National Insurance contributions for news media businesses;
  • Opening up additional £25,000 grants to smaller local news providers and creating a journalist support package by introducing a direct per capita payment to companies currently employing news journalists;
  • Guaranteeing that news media providers will be treated as an “essential service” in the event of further movement restrictions, including keeping journalists, publishers, retailers and wholesale operating and able to deliver papers;
  • Encouraging the public to rely on trusted news brands (print and online) rather than social media and less reliable online sources for important news and information about the crisis. This could be a Government advertising campaign across all media;
  • Mandating major supermarkets to continue to carry newspapers at current levels as an essential item and ensuring the wholesale distribution network stays in place.