Belfast Telegraph

News industry contributes £5 billion to UK economy, report reveals

Britain's news industry pumped £5.3 billion into the UK economy last year, supporting thousands of jobs and businesses across the country, research shows.

While revenues have nearly halved since 2003 amid a slowdown in print circulation and the transition to digital news, sector expenditure supported around 87,500 UK jobs in 2015, according to a report commissioned by the News Media Association and carried out by Deloitte.

The industry spent a total of £4.3 billion last year. Around £1.5 billion went towards staff wages, with UK news organisations directly employing 28,600 people.

The rest was spent on suppliers, UK taxes and other costs, Deloitte said.

That helped support around 30,700 jobs across the news supply chain, including ink and newsprint suppliers, while wholesale and retail newspaper distributors employed around 9,100 people.

Deloitte found that for every £1 that consumers pay on the newspaper cover price, an average of 28p goes straight to retailers and wholesalers, representing around £640 million in annual revenues.

A further 19,100 roles are supported through the wages spent by sector employees on goods and services such as restaurants.

Ed Shedd, partner and head of technology, media and telecommunications at Deloitte, said: "It is clear that the news media industry makes an extremely valuable economic contribution to the UK. This is a vibrant sector that distributes value across the supply chain."

The report adds that national and regional media outlets also served as an "important channel" for small and medium-sized business to connect with customers, as those business typically face higher barriers to advertising.

In addition to the sector's economic contribution, Deloitte said the news industry improves community cohesion and literacy, which can lead to "enhanced productivity, employment and health outcomes", especially when news outlets run articles on lifestyle choices and early disease detection.

Investigative journalism also plays an important function, holding "powerful figures and institutions to account", Deloitte said, pointing to work such as the The Guardian's Panama Paper revelations and the Sunday Times' investigation into Fifa.

However, as the industry continues to struggle under shrinking revenues, original journalism is coming under threat.

"Although digital revenues of news media organisations are growing, they are failing to offset the fall in print revenue," Deloitte said.

Annual average revenue per print consumer is around £124, while the digital equivalent is around £15.

But the sector invested more than £97 million in digital services last year, helping to future-proof the industry, the report said.

Deloitte said: "With the ongoing shift to digital readership among all audiences and the greater use of digital media by younger audiences, the sector's ongoing role as an engine of original news content relies on it being able to monetise digital audiences effectively so it can continue investing in quality journalism."