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Industry demands rates relief for news titles across UK

Rishi Sunak MPThe News Media Association has called for business rates relief for news titles across the United Kingdom after the plan was backed in Scotland.

An amendment to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill passed yesterday after 41 MSPs voted to extend business rate relief, which currently applies to retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, to news publishers.

The NMA, the trade body for the regional and national press, first called for a business rates holiday for news publishers in a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pictured, in March.

It has now stepped up its calls in light of the measure being introduced in Scotland.

In a statement, the NMA said: “The government has implemented some very helpful initiatives as the news media industry grapples with the challenges of the pandemic, such as fast-tracking VAT zero rating on e-publications, a public health ad campaign in news media, and early recognition of the industry’s key status.

“These measures are making a difference and we welcome them.

“However, the industry, principally the local news media sector, requires further significant intervention if it is to survive this crisis and continue to deliver the trusted journalism which the public are demanding in ever greater numbers.

“We urge the government to urgently look at other initiatives such as business rates relief, support for public interest reporting, advertising tax reliefs for news media, and quickly progressing work to level the playing field with the tech platforms.”

A rate cut scheme for local newspapers was introduced by George Osborne for an initial two-year period and took effect from April 2017.

His successor Philip Hammond then announced an extension of the scheme, which offers a discount of £1,500 per office in England, in 2018.

The Scottish government scheme has provided 100pc rates relief for businesses, while offering a £25,000 grant for businesses whose premises have a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.