On 31 March 2020 Jon Cruddas MP contacted the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport urging greater support for local newspapers and independent media outlets. The Government response outlined a programme to take out adverts in local papers as part of their Covid-19 public awareness campaign in a bid to offer financial support.
However, it has now been reported by a number of local press outlets that after already making considerable discounts on their advertising rates in agreement with the Government, the Cabinet Office requested further cuts to advertisement rates. In many cases local press have alleged this to be less than half the discounted rate.
Jon Cruddas MP commented: "if this is true then the terms are so low that local papers will struggle to break even on costs. Actions such as this risk the survival of reliable independent news and information sources and I will be contacting the Secretary of State again for more details regarding these claims."
Many freelance journalists have been pushed onto 50 percent wage packets and into real financial hardship since the start of the crisis. Local news has never been so important, and staff have worked throughout the lockdown without the luxury of the furlough scheme. A number of local papers have already fallen victim to the crisis.
Jon added: "the Government alleged that they would put support structures in place to protect local newspapers after my initial letter. I am very disappointed to hear these claims that the Government is forcing a race to the bottom and dangling the bare minimum to struggling companies."