Supporting newspapers during COVID-19

The local newspaper industry has been given a boost by the UK Government after facing challenging conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak.

There has been a collapse in advertising revenues and print circulation across Britain. As many businesses are unable to operate, they are also choosing not to advertise. Circulation is dropping due to less people being able to go out to purchase newspapers.

However, the important role of local newspapers has been recognised, especially during national emergencies. Highlighting local services, publicising government advice and producing trusted content is important during uncertain times.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP announced steps taken to support the sector, including:

  • Maximising advertising opportunities to complement the public information campaign as well as support newspaper revenues.
  • Encouraging companies in the UK to review their advertising policies and check they are not blocklisting. Blocklisting is technology used by advertisers to stop their content being used next to negative stories, such as coronavirus.
  • Securing key worker status for journalists and those engaged in the production of news to allow papers to continue their work.
  • Supporting news publishers to make use of the packages of support available to all businesses, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which allows employers to furlough workers.

John Lamont MP commented: “Local media is so important in providing publicity and scrutiny of local issues. National media outlets do not have the capacity to cover local stories and provide local information and it would be a great shame to lose such a vital resource.

“I welcome the increased support for local newspapers. I know that many are struggling for advertising revenue given that many businesses are closed for the time being.

“Journalists provide vital scrutiny during these difficult times. However, arguably even more importantly, they highlight the great work of volunteers and key workers, as well as signpost local services available to those who require help.”

In a letter to MPs, the Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden MP wrote: “News publishers are facing an unprecedented threat to their survival as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

“Paradoxically, trusted news has never been so important, or so in demand by the public.

“We are seeing record numbers of traffic and engagement with global, national, regional and local publishers. We see this everyday as constituency MPs; journalists providing quality news, binding communities together, and playing a fundamental role in our modern democracy.”