Dowden: Government Exploring Business Rates Relief For News Publishers

Oliver Dowden has said that the Government is exploring business rates relief for news media as MPs call for a business rates holiday for publishers in line with other sectors. 

Speaking earlier today at DCMS Parliamentary questions, the Culture Secretary said: “Local newspapers are absolutely vital in bringing forward trusted information and our free press is a cornerstone of our liberties.

“That is why I have worked extensively with local newspapers, for example to resolve issues around ad-blocking so they can get more ad revenue.”

The Cabinet Office has provided a lot of Government advertising “and we’ve looked at other issues such as business rate reliefs,” he said, responding to a question from Janet Daby MP, Labour.

The NMA has welcomed measures put in place by Government to support news media through the pandemic but has said that a one year business rates holiday, in line with other sectors, is also required.

More than 60 news media titles have been suspended because of the dramatic fall in ad revenues caused by the pandemic.

“Our members are struggling to understand why the business rates holiday has just been extended by guidance published by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government to miscellaneous businesses such as tanning shops and estate agents for example, but not to news publishers which are providing vital information to the public and every local community throughout the UK,” the NMA said in a letter to the Chancellor. 

Earlier this week Dan Jarvis MP, Labour, tabled a question for the BEIS Secretary of State asking what plans his Department had to introduce emergency business rates relief for local news publishers during the covid-19 outbreak. 

And yesterday, MPs called on the Government to implement business rates relief for news media in an Early Day Motion supported by Layla Moran MP, Lib Dem, and Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru.

The EDM states: “That this House calls on the Government to extend the business rates holiday to local and regional newspapers in the UK; notes that business rates relief has been extended to the news media sector in Scotland by the Scottish Government.

“Recognises that the media industry is under severe financial pressure due to the covid-19 outbreak; thanks local newspapers and media outlets for providing their communities with a vital service during the present crisis; further recognises that more than 2,000 staff in the national and regional press in the UK have temporarily lost their jobs as a result of the outbreak, according to the Press Gazette.

“Further notes that circulation of paid for newspapers was down as much as 39 per cent in April 2020 compared to in March 2020; and further calls on the Government to recognise the importance of a diverse media industry for preserving our liberal democracy and take firm steps to save our media outlets.”