Like you, I appreciate just how important independent newspapers are and I am pleased to say I have a weekly column in the Mid Sussex Times which I have thoroughly enjoyed writing, giving me the valuable opportunity, through our own local and independent paper, to keep readers updated on the latest goings on in both Westminster and Mid-Sussex.
I wholeheartedly share your desire to help independent publications through this period of hardship and I have been assured by my colleagues they are in regular dialogue with publishers to ensure the Government response to the challenges they are facing are as effective as possible.
I am very pleased that a variety of support has been made available to local newspapers across the country. Importantly, this includes the designating of journalists and ancillary staff as 'key workers', meaning they have been able to keep working and have access to childcare and education for their families. In Mid-Sussex, myself and my constituency team have also been assisting our local radio stations with understanding what schemes are available to them, raising them as a specific example with the District Council for consideration as part of their criteria for the discretionary grant scheme and have also raised their profile with local businesses who have been keen to support voluntary organisations across the area.
A major coronavirus public information campaign has been launched, through which Ministers have sought to maximise advertising opportunities for news outlets. Worth up to £35 million in advertising revenue, this campaign brings together over 600 national, regional and local titles across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reach 49 million people a month. As with any media planning approach, titles have been selected on their ability to engage with audiences and to ensure value for money, reach and targeting efficacy. It is my understanding the vast majority of titles involved are local papers and additional titles have been selected in order to further reach priority audiences including BAME and older men.
The Chancellor also brought forward the zero rating of VAT on all e-publications to the 1st May - seven months ahead of schedule. The Government expects the tax relief to be passed on to consumers in the form of reduced prices and publishers should benefit from increased sales.
Independent publishers may also benefit from several measures included in an unprecedented business support package, such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loans, VAT deferrals, and coverage of statutory sick pay costs.
I will continue to follow developments on these matters closely and will be in close communication with my colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ensure this Government continues, in these challenging times, to protect vital independent press like the Mid-Sussex Times.