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Industry calls for further help after ‘key worker’ pledge to journalists

Oliver DowdenThe News Media Association has called for further support for journalists operating as a “fourth emergency service” after the government confirmed they were being given “key worker” status.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden, pictured, has confirmed that print journalists and necessary ancillary staff are included as “key workers” in the government’s list of people who are critical to the coronavirus response.

The government has also has stressed the importance of them being able to move freely in the event of restrictions being introduced.

The NMA, the trade body for the regional and national press industry, has now called for “immediate financial and operational support” for all UK news publishers in light of the coronavirus crisis.

It has outlined plans for a series of financial and operational interventions including a commitment to divert government media spend to newspapers, extending the 100pc business rates holiday offered to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and opening up additional £25,000 grants to smaller local news providers.

It is also seeking a guarantee that news media providers will be treated as an “essential service” in the event of further movement restrictions and wants to see major supermarkets to continue to carry newspapers at current levels as an essential item.

In a statement, the NMA said: “There is an urgent need for immediate financial and operational support for all UK news publishers, national, regional and local.

“Maintaining the flow of essential news while avoiding extensive job losses and title closures would be beneficial to the public purse and society in the long-term.”

The NMA’s calls come after the Scottish Newspaper Society wrote to the Scottish government last week calling for a 100pc business rates holiday for 12 months, and emergency funds to allow staff to be paid as revenues drop to a critical level.

The SNS also wants to see the government divert cash spent on Facebook and Google advertising to be invested in local media, and facilitate access to immediate interest-free loans for working capital.

SNS director John McLellan wrote: “We appreciate that news publishers are not alone in facing an extreme existential threat, but local publishers in particular are, and will hopefully remain, vital means of communicating reliable information about services and assistance in their communities and as such we believe they should form part of the emergency response to what appears to be a rapidly deteriorating situation.

“Advertising revenues are disappearing and as people are shopping less so too is hard copy sales revenue diminishing, and if businesses are forced to close that will mean the end of online publication upon which many people increasingly rely to verify information.

“In what are obviously very uncertain, worrying and fast-changing circumstances, local publications offer something else other than just trusted information; they are symbols of certainty and continuity and will perform a key role in returning communities to whatever becomes the new normal as and when the crisis passes, but not if they go out of business in the meantime.”


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  • March 23, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    If any local publications do go out of business it won’t be because of the current situation, nor will it depend on whether handouts from the government are given to keep dying publications going, they’re losing copy sales, readers and advertising revenues and failing for a reason, and you have to look back much further than the current situation and look at how businesses were handled (not managed) to find that.

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  • March 23, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    The current crisis is without doubt crippling businesses right across the Uk but yet again some in the industry are issuing the echo call for “immediate financial and operational support” its become rather like the little boy who constantly calls wolf: another week another demand for money.

    The content provided online by some of the larger publishers doesn’t bear close scrutiny in terms of it being deemed essential community updates and information consisting ,in many instances ,of old news, easy to obtain and sometimes unchecked PR pieces and copies of the public’s own social media postings.

    By all means help the true independent small community publishers who are providing a first class raw news service on a tight budget from within the communities themselves but the main groups have shown over recent years their lack of connection and relevance with the territories they once served so well.

    If something needs to go it may well be the print editions of local papers which have been losing thousands of readers for years and who by the publishers own admission reach nowhere near the number of people the online versions do, it could result in the survival of the fittest or in this instance, the survival of the most relevant.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 11:20 am

    I’m sorry but I cannot see how a member of staff sat behind a desk,copy and pasting the general public’s own social media posts, top and tailing press releases or old news to hit a click rate figure can be clsssified as a “ key worker”

    Instead of this generalisation I would suggest publishing groups are each allowed to nominate x number of reporters to be classified as “ key workers” and let them decide who best to represent their companies and who they believe to be capable of “…maintaining the flow of essential news” during the ongoing situation

    Let’s get this in some perspective and let’s not insult the true key workers across the uk who really are keeping the country going

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