Government To Continue To ‘Work Closely’ With Industry To Address Coronavirus Challenges

The Government will continue to work closely with the news media industry to address the unique and unprecedented challenges created by the coronavirus outbreak, the Minister for Media and Data has said.

John Whittingdale told MPs that the Government recognised the “vital role” played by newspapers in delivering highly trusted information to the public during the pandemic and would continue to work with publishers to address issues with the supply chain and the sharp drop in ad revenues.  

“The Government recognise the vital role that local and regional newspapers play in the provision of reliable, high-quality information during this time,” Mr Whittngdale said in a DCMS oral answers to questions session on Monday.   

“We have already put in place an unprecedented financial package to provide support to all businesses and have taken a number of steps to provide specific support to news publishers.

“We are continuing to work closely with publishers to fully understand the specific challenges that they are facing with the supply chain and the fall in advertising revenues and options for addressing these.”

The Financial Times reported this morning that the news media industry could be set to lose more than £550 million because of the pandemic.

The FT said: “In the past month, over 50 titles such as the Milton Keynes Citizen and Brighton & Hove Independent have stopped appearing in print, with trade group the News Media Association warning that more will follow suit unless the industry receives further support,”

“The industry has, among other things, asked for the business rate holiday, announced as part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £350bn rescue package in mid March, to be extended to news publishers and a planned removal of value added tax on digital publications to be moved forward.

“With the looming recession likely to hit advertising budgets, Enders estimates that the newspaper market is set to lose ‘at least’ £550m.

“Regional titles, once reliant on advertising from local businesses, have been struggling to compete with websites that post classified ads — as well as with Facebook and Google, which dominate targeted digital advertising. Between 2005 and 2018, the UK lost 245 local news outlets, according to the Press Gazette, the media trade magazine.

“A survey carried out by the NMA, showed that two-thirds of local publishers would have to close titles in less than four months without further support from the government. Nearly half said they would have to cut jobs within the next four weeks.”