Local Newspapers: Covid-19

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons on 24th September 2020.

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Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

What steps his Department is taking to support local, independent newspapers during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Minister of State

The Government recognise the vital importance of local and regional newspapers, particularly during this pandemic. That is why we designated journalists as key workers and ran a £35 million public information campaign to carry covid messaging in more than 600 titles.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

We in Slough are fortunate to have two brilliant local newspapers, the Slough Express and the Slough Observer, which play a vital role in our local democracy, ensuring that the good people of Slough are well informed with reliable and accurate news reporting, but, like many of their counterparts across our country, local journalism is under threat. Their trade body News Media Association has repeatedly called for business rates relief, but those calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The National Union of Journalists has proposed a detailed news recovery plan to ensure the survival of excellent journalism, which is there for all of us. Can the Minister advise us, before we lose even more valued local newspapers, when the Government will finally listen to and support this important sector?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Minister of State

I have no doubt that the newspapers in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency are doing an excellent job, and I have had a number of conversations with the News Media Association and other publishing organisations. The Government have extended £1,500 business rates relief for local newspaper offices, but we will obviously continue to look at what additional measures we can take to support newspapers.