Belfast Telegraph

Call to adopt rate relief support for local newspapers

By Margaret Canning

Measures to support local newspapers in England raised by the Chancellor in his speech should be adopted in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

George Osborne said he would hold a consultation into whether local newspapers should benefit from business rate relief.

He said the industry had faced pressure from new technology and changing circumstances but that they remained "an important source of information for local communities and a vital part of a healthy democracy".

Trade body, the News Media Association, is now calling on its members to take part in the consultation by giving insights into how they use property and how business rate relief could support them.

But as business rates are a devolved matter for the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments, there is currently no prospect of a similar boost for the industry here.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said the sector already received support from the rating system.

"Many local newspaper printing operations in Northern Ireland already benefit from rate relief through industrial derating, which provides a 70% discount in their rate bills.

"Over 5,500 businesses in Northern Ireland have saved over £330m in rates since the decision to continue with industrial derating."

But Glyn Roberts, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said the sector could benefit from more support.

He said local papers played an important role in Northern Ireland.

"Obviously the retail sector has always been supportive of the idea of having a strong regional Press," he said. "The health of town centres and local chambers depends on a good relationship with the Press.

"They are a major part of the community infrastructure in many towns and our members also advertise in them.

"I am supportive of the Chancellor's proposals.

"Local papers have suffered a great deal in recent times as more news moves online so I would welcome something to encourage their unique place in the community."

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