Culture Secretary Urges Public To Buy Newspapers

Oliver Dowden has urged the public to buy newspapers which are providing a “vital public service” by providing the public with access to trusted and accurate information during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a piece for The Times, the Culture Secretary pointed to News Media Association figures showing the negative impact of the outbreak on the news media industry’s business model adding that an irreversible decline in news publishing would have “far-reaching implications for democracy in our country.”  

The Culture Secretary said: “We increasingly live in an age of online echo chambers and self-reinforcing algorithms which can compound the spread of misinformation. The single best way to tackle it is through fact-checked news, and I’m pleased to see newspapers playing their part against false stories.

“The press is also a cornerstone of a free, fair and open society. Where else in the world do you find a similar level of plurality which gives rise to the best examples of public interest journalism, such as the Daily Mail campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence or The Sunday Times’ investigation into the Thalidomide tragedy?

“Local and regional papers in particular have a unique ability to build a picture of how coronavirus is affecting their communities. They play a vital role in helping co-ordinate volunteering and neighbourhood efforts to look after the vulnerable.”

But newspapers are under huge financial pressure with steep declines in advertising and keyword blocking on coronavirus-related news stories putting more strain on news organisations, the Culture Secretary said.

“The News Media Association says that advertising revenues typically make up between 60 and 100 per cent of newspapers’ total revenue. As a result of coronavirus they are now reporting ad revenues plummeting by up to 90 per cent, putting the future of our prized newspapers in peril.

“An irreversible decline in news publishing would have far-reaching implications for democracy in our country. So today I am asking companies and the advertising industry to act and do all they can to resolve this issue.”

The Culture Secretary has written to the 100 biggest brands in the UK to urge them to review their advertising policies and check they are not “inappropriately” blocking ads from appearing next to news providing a vital public service.

“The Government is playing its part in supporting the news industry. We are forming an innovative and unprecedented advertising partnership between the government and the newspaper industry to maximise government communications aimed at helping keep the public safe and the nation united throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Culture Secretary said.

“Newspapers are at heart of the British media and essential to its vibrant mix. People across the country are rising to the coronavirus challenge and I suggest we all add one small thing to our to do list: buy a paper.”