Slough MP urges Government to extend business rates holiday to local newspapers

Slough MP urges Government to extend business rates holiday to local newspapers

MP for Slough Tan Dhesi has warned the country risks losing more valued local newspapers if the Government does not increase its financial support.

The COVID-19 crisis has decimated advertising revenue for many publishers, including the Express’ Baylis Media Ltd, despite high demand for trusted local news during the pandemic.

The News Media Association (NMA), of which Baylis Media is a member, has called for the Government’s business rates holiday to be extended to news organisations.

This would mean companies like Baylis Media would be excused from paying business rates for the 2020/21 tax year, a benefit which has been offered to the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Mr Dhesi told the House of Commons on Thursday, September 24: “We in Slough are fortunate to have two brilliant local newspapers, the Slough Express and Slough Observer, which play a vital role in our local democracy and ensure the good people of Slough are well-informed with reliable and accurate news reporting.

“But like many of their counterparts across the country, local journalism is under threat.

“Their trade body, the News Media Association, has repeatedly called for business rates relief but those calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears.”

“And the National Union of Journalists has proposed a detailed news recovery plan to ensure the survival of excellent journalism, actually is there for all of us.

“So can the minister advise before we lose even more valued newspapers, when will the Government finally listen to and support this important sector?”

Conservative MP John Whittingdale, Minister of State (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) said the Government had offered £1,500 business rates relief for local newspaper offices but it would continue to look at additional measures to support the industry.

Jeremy Spooner, chief executive of Baylis Media, added: “Like many other businesses in our community, Baylis Media Ltd, publisher of the Slough and Windsor Express, has been severely challenged by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are appreciative of the support offered by the Government, particularly the furlough scheme, but due to the nature of what we do furloughing all our journalists was not an option.

“There are signs of a slow recovery but like many businesses more help is needed to overcome the financial effects of Covid-19 on our business.”