Coronavirus: Shropshire MPs urge Government to give newspaper industry more support amid crisis
Shropshire MPs have backed calls for more support to be given to the newspaper industry during the coronavirus crisis.
Philip Dunne and Daniel Kawczynski said local newspapers provided a crucial service in keeping people informed during the epidemic, and should get support from the Government during this difficult time.
Their comments came after David Newell, chief executive of the News Media Association, wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak calling for business-rate relief on the industry.
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In his emergency package to support businesses during the crisis, the Chancellor last month announced that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors would not have to pay any business rates, but the news industry was not included.
Mr Newell said it was hard to understand why businesses such as tanning salons and estate agents were benefitting from the rates holiday, but that the news industry was not.
Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski said the Government should consider extending rates relief to the news industry.
He said: "Our local newspapers are providing vital services in disseminating a lot of very important information, both digitally and in the traditional sense.
"Any industry which is doing a vital role during this crisis deserves support. The Government should think very carefully about extending the level of support to the newspaper industry."
Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, also called for more to be done to support the news industry.
"At this critical moment of national crisis, local newspapers and other media groups are providing essential information to the public," said Mr Dunne.
"It's vital they continue trading given that they do such a valuable role.
"If they are suffering as a result of a significant reduction in income, like the retail and hospitality sectors, I think there is an argument for them getting some extra support."
Lucy Allan, MP for Telford, said there was potential for the business rates scheme to be extended.
She said: “The business rates holiday has made a real difference to those businesses which have been eligible.
"It has been extended to include more sectors and there is potential for it to be extended further."
She said the Government was working around the clock to ensure businesses were financially supported throughout this unprecedented time.
"Policy detail takes some time to get right but the Government’s decisive actions to date give me confidence that it is exploring a range of measures to consider those sectors which are struggling to continue operating as normal,” she added.
Mr Newell said the coronavirus lockdown had led to falls in revenue of up to 80 per cent for some newspapers, adding that it was small, independent publishers of local titles that were most acutely affected.
He also suggested the Government could commit to significant expenditure in newspapers to ensure key public information messages were communicated to readers.
Mr Newell said he was struggling to understand why the newspaper industry had not been included in the rates relief scheme.
"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," he said.
"The NMA would once again ask that the Government recognise the news media industry’s value to the public and the threat it is currently under by immediately putting in place these measures."
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