Local press publishers welcome tax breaks as acceptable alternative to direct subsidy

The local newspaper industry has welcomed the Chancellor’s proposals to introduce tax breaks for the industry but cautioned that it “remains to be seen” if the measures would provide meaningful support.

George Osborne yesterday announced that the Government is launching a consultation on whether to introduce tax breaks for the English local newspaper industry.

They would not apply to titles based in Wales and Scotland, as business rate taxes are devolved to individual countries.

In his budget speech, Osborne said: "Local newspapers are a vital part of community life – but they’ve had a tough time in recent years – so today we announce a consultation on how we can provide them with tax support too."

The Budget document, published on the Treasury website, said: “Local newspapers are an important source of information for local communities and a vital part of a healthy democracy.

"To support them as they adapt to new technology and changing circumstances, the government will consult on whether to introduce a business rates relief for local newspapers in England."

While limited details of the proposals have been set out, the industry has welcomed the Chancellor’s recognition of the challenges facing local newspapers.

However, the industry has warned the Government it would not tolerate encroaching government intervention, stating it would defend its independence fiercely.

Lynne Anderson, News Media Association, deputy chief executive, said: "The News Media Association awaits with interest the full details of the Chancellor’s proposed consultation on business rates relief for local newspapers.

“Publishers have never sought direct public subsidy and will continue fiercely to defend the independence of the press from political or statutory controls. But local newspapers are vital to democracy and it is good to see the Government exploring different options to support a dynamic and vibrant local press."  

Likewise, Henry Faure Walker, chief executive of Newsquest, said he welcomed a different option rather than government subsidies being explored.

He said: “We’re pleased that the Government has recognised the role that local newspaper and their digital platforms play as a foundation stone for vibrant local communities, for strong local democracy and local debate.

“The industry has never sought direct public subsidy and it’s not something I believe this industry needs, but it is good to see different options being explored to support the important work of the local press.”

Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, publisher of regional titles including the Manchester Evening News, said: “The Chancellor is right to call out the important role local newspapers play in people’s lives and acknowledge the challenges many are facing.

“We welcome a consultation into business rate relief, however it remains to be seen if such a measure would actually provide meaningful support to this vital industry."

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