Hacked Off: Government ad deal is “rewarding the fat cats while starving quality, independent, local journalism”


£35m of taxpayers’ money has been handed over to corporate newspapers and their wealthy owners while smaller, independent publishers struggle from the impact of COVID-19.


An investigation by Byline Investigates has today revealed that the most powerful and wealthiest newspapers have been given a £35m windfall by the Government, in the form of an “ad deal”.


Many of these publishers are highly profitable, while several are owned by individuals who do not pay taxes in the UK.


Independent publishers, who are more trusted and more likely to be independently regulated, have been cut out of the deal.


Hacked Off Policy Director Nathan Sparkes said,


“As the government hands over £35m of taxpayer cash to unregulated corporate newspapers, some of which are still facing court allegations of illegality and cover-up, independent local titles struggling to survive have been cut out of the deal.


“Government policy is rewarding the fat cats while starving quality, independent, local journalism of the support needed to survive.


“While 95% of independent titles are not getting a penny of government support, Rupert Murdoch appears to have his own magic money tree growing in the Downing Street rose garden.


On the regulatory status of the publishers to have benefited, Sparkes added:


“Of 614 newspaper titles to benefit, hardly any are independently regulated; the vast majority belong to the sham complaints-handler ”IPSO” which is owned and controlled by the big newspaper groups.


“The government is pumping money into companies which have repeatedly subjected members of the public to abuse, and which continue to hide from any meaningful form of accountability.


“Moreover, there are several examples published by Hacked Off and FullFact of these titles publishing fake news about the coronavirus.


“We call on the government to recognise the vital role of independent local publishers which are trusted by their communities and have a track record of ethical, responsible journalism. They need and deserve taxpayers’ help. Rupert Murdoch does not.”



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