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10 December 2020

Dowden: Government Working To Protect Public Notices Revenues In Local Newspapers

Government is aware of the vital role public notices play in local newspapers revenues and is “working closely to ensure that we protect that,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said this morning. 

The News Media Association is campaigning to keep planning notices in local papers warning that removing the statutory requirement on local authorities to publish planning notices in local newspapers will damage local democracy and disenfranchise millions of people who rely on newspapers for the information.

Additionally, revenue from public notices is an important stream of income for many local and regional publishers and the withdrawal of public notices from print newspapers could even prove fatal to financially fragile local publishers.

Responding to a topical question this morning from Sheryl Murray, Conservative MP for South East Cornwall, Mr Dowden said: “We are very committed to ensuring we have vibrant local newspapers; they are a cornerstone of our democracy. 

“We have already extended business rates relief on local newspaper offices, fast tracked zero rating on VAT on e-publications and will continue to explore further options for support. 

“My hon friend is right to raise the role of statutory notices and we know the role they play in newspapers revenues and we are working closely to ensure that we protect that.”  

Ms Murray said: “My local newspaper the Cornwall Times was concerned about changes to the planning system which could mean a loss in advertising revenue. What long term Government revenue streams are local papers going to be able to take advantage of, so as to secure their future?”

MPs from different parties have tabled Parliamentary questions asking Ministers about the impact removing planning notices from local newspapers would have on local democracy and revenues supporting local journalism.

Last week, responding to a question from Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South, Minister for Media and Data John Whittingdale said the impact on local newspapers of any changes would be considered as part of the Government’s planning reform, outlined in the Planning for the Future consultation.

He said: "We are mindful of the potential impact that any changes to the requirements might have on transparency and local democracy, as well as the potential effect on local newspaper revenue.

“Indeed, the independent Cairncross Review into the future of journalism found that statutory notices, including planning notices, provide an important strand of revenue for many local publishers and that their withdrawal would do serious damage to parts of the sector.”