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Call made for ‘irreplaceable’ local media to be protected

PUBLISHED: 14:47 10 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:07 10 May 2020

MP Damian Hinds speaking about the regional press on BBC1's Politics England. Picture: BBC

MP Damian Hinds speaking about the regional press on BBC1's Politics England. Picture: BBC

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The “irreplaceable” value of local newspapers was highlighted during a television debate involving the editor of the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.

Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News editor David Powles speaking about the regional press on BBC1's Politics England. Picture: BBCEastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News editor David Powles speaking about the regional press on BBC1's Politics England. Picture: BBC

Damian Hinds, East Hampshire MP, was speaking in a discussion about the challenges facing local and regional media on BBC One’s Politics England Sunday morning show.

He was joined by David Powles, editor of the EDP and Norwich Evening News, who said money from a new tax on tech giants should benefit the local press.

Mr Hinds said: “Quality news does have a cost attached to it. We are bringing in the digital services tax - that’s a world-leading initiative.

“As we come out of [the coronavirus pandemic] we have think about how we can support this sector because it is incredibly valuable, and ultimately it is irreplaceable.”

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Mr Powles said the pandemic had presented the regional press with an unprecedented challenge, which had seen the EDP published “with no-one in the office” for the first time in its 150-year history, as staff work from home.

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He said advertising revenue, which had dropped off at the start of lockdown, was now recovering.

Mr Powles said: “Over the last few weeks we’ve seen lots of loyalty from some of the advertisers who realise we’re in a tough situation, but we’re trying to keep going and keep our readers informed. They’ve wanted to come back and find ways to support us.”

Mr Powles said firms such as Google and Facebook helped the regional media spread their news, but the tech giants also benefitted from the work done by the press.

He added: “There’s been a lot of debate around whether the government should bail out local newspapers. The tax [on tech giants] is definitely the way forward that I favour.”

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Also speaking on the show, Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West, said: “We need to protect our regional outlets. People really relate to them as we go into the next stage of the Covid crisis we’re going to need them more than ever.

“When we go into the autumn and winter when we may be facing a food crisis and we may do a mass vaccination programme we’re really going to need those local outlets.”


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