Harriet Harman: Tax help offered to struggling newspapers

Media groups should not “jump the gun” and immediately close down local newspapers if they have cashflow problems, Commons leader Harriet Harman said today.

Harman said media executives should not make short-term decisions that result in a “long-term future loss of important local news media”.

Her comments came days after the Guardian Media Group announced plans to close all editorial offices of its 22 weekly newspapers in the north west.

Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, and Andrew Stunell, Liberal Democrat MP for Hazel Grove, raised the issue during Commons exchanges on future business.

Harman said local and regional newspapers were “very trusted” to provide “useful information”.

She told Stunell: “I do think that local media, like the Guardian Media Group, they’re hit by a change in the way people are getting their information, but also a fall in business advertising.

“It’s important that they don’t jump the gun, diminish their capacity, close down important newspaper titles which are well respected and very very important in local areas.

“If they have immediate cashflow problems, they know they can go to HMRC [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs] and defer their taxes, there is other help that the Government can provide them.

“We don’t want to see them making short-term decisions which result in a long-term future loss of important local news media.”

Stunell had asked for a Commons debate on the subject, and raised concerns that GMG had instructed its local journalists not to publish reports of the redundancies.

Hoyle said local media was in “dire straits” and asked what the Government could do to ensure local newspapers survive.

Harman suggested that the issue might be the subject of an upcoming topical debate.

An early day motion, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle Mark Hunter, calling on the GMG to rethink its proposals has so far been signed by 13 MPs.

The motion recognises “that many people have worked extremely hard over the years to build these newspapers up” and believes the proposed cuts “can only be damaging to the future prospects of the titles concerned”.

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