Robert Halfon joins forty other MPs pressing government to support independent news through Covid crisis

News / Tue 28th Apr 2020 at 06:55pm

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon has joined MPs from across the political divide asking the government to support local and independent media through an increased share of public health advertising spending.

The letter to the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport has been supported by 40 MPs.

Recently the government launched an advertising campaign but excluded independent media such as YourHarlow and a hundred similar papers across the country.

The editor of YourHarlow, Michael Casey, has welcomed the support of Mr Halfon and the other 39 MPs.

Mr Casey said: “I welcome Mr Halfon and his colleagues support. In the last two months we have published close to 800 stories, keeping the 80,000 people informed during these terrible times.

Just over ten years ago there would have been three printed newspapers reporting on this crisis. Now there is just us.

“It is now more than ever that we need government support”.

“We are very grateful for the support Harlow Council has given us and hope the government will do likewise.”

YourHarlow is a member of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) who have been leading the campaign across the country.

One of the members is the Bedford Independent. Their local MP, Mohammad Yasin asked a question on the subject to secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, John Wittingdale on the subject.

Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of the Public Interest News Foundation, said, “The COVID-19 crisis is affecting all of our lives, and we urgently need high-quality independent publications like YourHarlow to give a voice to communities up and down the UK.

“Now it’s time for the Government to repay their dedication with the financial support that the sector needs.”

The letter states:

We write regarding our shared concerns about the situation of local press and media during the coronavirus crisis and our interest in the government’s support for this vital industry.

We seek urgent clarification from the government on how it intends to support and enhance local press despite current challenges.

The new “All in, All together” campaign is a welcome effort by the government to provide essential information at this time. It also fulfils a role in providing financial support for the press through much-needed advertising revenue.

We have, however, received representations from local press organisations and individual journalists, many of whom are concerned about a perceived lack of support from government for smaller-scale news outlets by comparison to major media groups.

This includes the Independent Community News Network (ICNN), the official trade body for independent community news publishers, which reaches over 5m people online each month, and acts as part of the fourth largest news publishing organisation in the UK.

Accurate and timely information from trusted sources is vital during this pandemic. It is well-known that local press act as some of the most trusted sources of information for our communities. We believe that ignoring or limiting the use of these media outlets risks leaving our constituents with insufficient access to the trusted knowledge they need.

Local media groups have been put greatly at risk economically by the current crisis. Many press outfits have limited financial reserves or do not meet the criteria for other forms of government support, whether due to their size, the diverse ways in which they operate or other reasons. Continued financial exposure without support may risk an existential crisis for much of our independent media.

We believe that it is essential that the government show its support for independent and community media at this time by pledging a proportionate share of public health advertising spend to local press. This would represent both a short-term boost to the government’s public health communications, and a long-term investment in protecting and maintaining our diverse media landscape, throughout the United Kingdom.

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