'Doing nothing is not an option' – MP urges Ministers to help save news publishers

Ministers have been urged to launch a financial support package to help local newspapers survive the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, the Shadow leader of the House
Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz, the Shadow leader of the House

Valerie Vaz MP has warned that many news publishers were on the brink of collapse, having seen a drastic fall in sales and advertising revenue during the lockdown.

The Shadow leader of the House said the industry had not received the same level of financial support as other sectors, and called for a business rates holiday as part of measures to avoid a crisis.

According to the News Media Association, advertising revenue for local and regional titles has fallen by as much as 80 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

And at the end of March, half of all titles surveyed estimated their survival time to be no more than two to four months.

Walsall South MP Ms Vaz said she has written to the Treasury to highlight "the lack of financial support" that news publishers have received during the pandemic.

"I am calling for an extension of the one-year business rates holiday for the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors to newspaper publishers, in line with Scotland," she said.

"It is time for the Government to step up and provide news publishers with the support they need. This is an avoidable crisis and the Chancellor must act now to protect this critical industry."

Ms Vaz said she was concerned that no additional support was announced for news publishers in the Summer Economic Statement in early July.

She also raised the issue during Business Questions. "I have now written to the Treasury urging them to provide business rates relief for news publishers," she added.

"Local news publishers perform a vital role in our democracy and have been at the frontline of reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic. They keep the public informed.

"Doing nothing is not an option – the Government must support news publishers to ensure their long-term survival."

During the pandemic, publishers in England have been able to furlough staff but have had no access to rates relief.

The Scottish Parliament voted to extend business rates relief to news publishers in May.

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