The 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.”