Independent and local news publishers are facing unprecedented financial challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet the wealthiest few media publishers in the country today announced a deal with the Government which hands public subsidy to some of the most profitable titles, in exchange for a 3 month advertising campaign which started today in those newspapers. It appears that independent titles, mostly small local enterprises who need the funds most, have been left out.
Hacked Off have written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport seeking clarification on which publishers will stand to gain from this arrangement, how much they will each receive, and why .
Commenting, Hacked Off Policy Director Nathan Sparkes said,
“Independent journalism is rarely more important than at times of national crisis, yet today the Government stand accused of ignoring independent and local publishers who reach millions of people in local communities across the country.
“While the Government hands public funds over to the largest, wealthiest and most profitable publishers, struggling independent titles which are rooted in local communities have been left to rot.
“This is a Government which is quick to back the most powerful media publishers, while doing next to nothing to support genuinely local, independent titles and the journalists which staff them.
“It is likely that these funds will, in the case of News UK and Reach PLC at least, be diverted from the taxpayer’s pocket to settling historic hacking claims. It is totally unacceptable that the Government is intent on financing the largest publishers’ legal strategies while local independent titles struggle to make ends meet.
“The Secretary of State has yet to inform Parliament of this arrangement, let alone the public, and must urgently set out how and why this deal was agreed in this way.”
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 The letter asks for the following information:
- A list of which publishers will be benefiting from this arrangement
- The basis for selecting those publishers
- How much titles will be paid and the total cost to the taxpayer over the 3 month duration
- How many titles ultimately owned by a publisher with an annual turnover of less than £1m are participating in the arrangement
Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press, and we work with the victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.