NMA: News Publishers Need Urgent Support

The News Media Association has called for immediate financial and operational support for all UK news publishers so that the flow of essential news to the public can be maintained amid the coronavirus crisis. 

In its submission to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s inquiry into the future of journalism, the NMA pointed to the extreme pressures on news providers caused by steep declines in ad revenues which pose an immediate threat to publishers, particularly independent local companies. 

Some of the support measures the NMA called for included a Government advertising campaign, the recognition of key worker status for journalists and for the Government to bring forward the VAT exemption for e-newspapers.

The NMA made the case that one of the best ways of supporting news media publishers is to divert some of the Government’s advertising budgets to help replace the ad revenues which have plummeted as a result of the lockdown.

The NMA welcomed the three-month advertising partnership between the Government and the newspaper industry which aims to help keep the public safe and the nation united throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The campaign is running across the whole industry, and will provide a lifeline to publishers of independent local weekly titles who are in the front line of the crisis.

The NMA continues to call for a centralised review of Government, one of the biggest UK advertisers, and public sector advertising and marketing spend and practices, with a thorough re-evaluation of the value, reach, effectiveness and accountability of news media brands, and the public’s growing trust in them versus social media platforms.

The NMA also called on Government to guarantee that news media companies are treated as an “essential service” during the lockdown, keeping journalists, publishers, wholesalers, retailers and the entire news supply chain operating and able to produce and deliver papers.

Furthermore, plans to scrap VAT on e-books and e-newspapers were fast-tracked by the Chancellor, in a boost to readers and publishers during the coronavirus outbreak. The NMA campaigned for VAT zero rating to be applied to news media publications in all their forms and has put the measure forward as part of a package of solutions to help the industry respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the submission, 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 whilst avoiding extensive job losses and title closures is not only beneficial to the public purse but society as well. In a recent NMA member survey 92 per cent of respondents stated that they were experiencing revenue declines of 61 per cent or more since the coronavirus outbreak hit the UK on 31 January 2020.”

“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus many publishers, especially at a regional and local level, fear their ability to meet their public information role is in jeopardy and their businesses will not survive beyond the next few months without swift government intervention. This would leave communities without any vital local independent and trusted news provision.

“NMA member research has shown that 50 per cent of news media publishers say they will have to close titles within the next two to four months if the Government does not offer any further support. “

The response also countered the part of the inquiry announcement which called into question trust in regional and local media outside of London, as well as trust in news media as a whole.

“The NMA strongly refutes this, YouGov studies have shown that local media, in print and online, is the most trusted source for local news and information. Local media publishers are based in the communities they serve and have deep links and strong relationships with their readers and local businesses,” the NMA said. 

Furthermore, the NMA highlighted the recent research by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism which found that, “the news and information about coronavirus produced by news organisations was found to be highly trusted (61 per cent), whereas news and information  on search engines (31 per cent), social media (14 per cent), messaging apps (12 per cent) and video sites (11 per cent) ranked considerably lower.

The inquiry also covered media literacy as well as training and diversity in journalism. The NMA’s response demonstrated the various mechanisms and schemes already in place and successful at recruiting and training journalists and aspiring journalists from diverse backgrounds, such as the NCTJ’s Journalism Diversity Fund and individual publishers apprenticeship schemes. 

The NMA also highlighted examples of other support measures taken by European countries for the news media sector as well as ongoing fiscal measures by other countries to support news journalism.