North Ayrshire and Arran MP Patricia Gibson has lodged an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the UK House of Commons, calling on the UK government to introduce a package of support to aid local newspapers, the industry having been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Local papers have suffered from a significant fall in sales revenues, a drop of up to 35% in some cases, as people are venturing to the shops less often and vulnerable older people, an important section of their readership, are asked to stay at home entirely. This drop in sales has been coupled with a slump in advertising revenue of up to 75%, leaving many local weeklies with staff on furlough, struggling for survival.
Mrs Gibson said:
“Weekly local newspapers are part of the identity and make-up of our communities, where they play a key role particularly now during the coronavirus crisis. They share stories of how people are coping with the lockdown, highlight community events and accomplishments while providing important information on local services.
“Despite this, the coronavirus threatens the existence of many papers. I have therefore written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at HM Treasury and the Secretary of State for the
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, calling on the UK Government to introduce a package of support for local newspapers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The UK and Scottish Governments have taken out adverts in newspapers to share public health information which has helped to provide revenue, but this alone is not enough. The
Scottish Newspaper Society has requested that the UK Government transfer advertising to news print media, an emergency fund for media companies, and explicit instructions to banks to make lending available to legitimate and trusted news operations.
“We must ensure that our well-loved and essential local papers are not another casualty of the coronavirus, and the UK Government must urgently consider these proposals and do all it can to ensure the survival of local papers which are so essential to the social fabric of our communities.”