Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has called on Britons to buy a newspaper in a bid to help local, regional and national publications make it through the Covid-19 shutdown.
Speaking at the Downing Street briefing, Mr Jenrick said much of the front-line effort in the fight against coronavirus “is being co-ordinated in our own communities”.
He said: “A free country needs a free press and the national, the regional and the local newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure.”
Mr Jenrick added: “I would like to echo the words of the Culture Secretary (Oliver Dowden) recently in encouraging everyone who can to buy a newspaper.”
The Housing Secretary’s defence of the press stands in contrast to Downing Street’s criticism of the media for its coverage of the coronavirus crisis.
Last month, a Number 10 spokesman claimed “public confidence in the media has collapsed during this emergency”.
Across the industry, many titles have been forced to furlough staff and reduce pay due to advertising cuts as businesses retrench in a bid to survive the lockdown.
In London, the Evening Standard – which is distributed for free across the transport network – was forced to make significant efforts to cut staff costs.
Its sister websites the Independent and Indy100 were also affected.
Elsewhere in the capital, daily financial paper City AM has suspended its print operation.
Despite its apparent hostility to some quarters of the media, last month the Government revealed it had set up a three-month advertising partnership across the newspaper industry to push its “stay at home” message.
The deal was set up in partnership with Newsworks, a marketing body for national newspapers, which hoped to help provide a lifeline to struggling outlets.
It is understood the newspaper industry originally asked for £45 million for the campaign but the final total was not disclosed.