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19 November 2020

Government ‘Committed’ To Considering Further Fiscal Measures To Support News Media

The Government has committed to considering further “fiscal measures” to support the news media sector as the industry grapples with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Ministers have stressed the vital importance of the news media sector in providing trusted and reliable information to the public during the pandemic and made clear that  Government is considering further interventions to help the sector.

The News Media Association is pressing for a series of measures including business rates relief for news media, support for public interest news reporting, and action to level the playing field with the tech giants.

Responding to a written question about progress implementing the recommendations of the Cairncross review from Lord Birkenhead, DCMS Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Baroness Barran said Government had “committed to considering further fiscal measures to support the sector.”

She added: “The recommended market study into the workings of the online advertising market has now concluded. The CMA’s final report recommended a similar approach to the Cairncross Review in proposing codes of conduct to govern the relationship between platforms and publishers. We are considering the CMA’s findings carefully before determining next steps, and will publish our response shortly.

In the House of Commons earlier in the week, Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale responded to a written question from Stephanie Peacock, Labour MP for Barnsley East, about support for local newspapers.

He said: “The Government is clear that local and regional newspapers play an invaluable role in the fabric of our society, and it has been an absolute priority to ensure we do all we can to support news publishers at this time of financial instability.

“With this in mind, we continue to focus both on alleviating the existential threat posed by the pandemic and simultaneously progressing commitments made in our response to the Cairncross Review.”

Speaking in the House of Lords Baroness Barran said: “With regard to the Review’s recommendations on taking steps to help users identify the reliability and trustworthiness of news sources, online platforms’ efforts here may continue and expand as a result of the proposals in the Online Harms White Paper.

“We intend to publish the Full Government Response to the White Paper as soon as possible. We are also developing a Media Literacy Strategy, which will be published in Spring 2021.

“The Government is pleased to see the BBC has conducted a thorough review of the Local Democracy Reporting Service and the wider Local News Partnership, as recommended by the Cairncross Review. As set out in our response, we would support any efforts by the BBC to grow the scheme.

“The Government will not be taking forward the recommendation to establish an institute for Public Interest News. While we acknowledge the value the proposed institute is intended to provide, it is not for the government to lead on this issue.

“The Government recognises the vital role of newspapers in supporting communities and in ensuring the provision of reliable, high-quality information at this time. In addition to the above measures, it has therefore also been an absolute priority to ensure we do all we can as a government to support news publishers during the COVID-19 crisis."