Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has launched a cross-party campaign to support local press by providing increased financial support.
The All in, All together campaign has been launched to seek urgent clarification from the government on how it intends to support and enhance local press despite the current challenges in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
A letter, backed by 40 MPs from across parliament, has been sent to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, asking that they support local and independent media through an increased share of public health communications spending.
Mr Carmichael, who has led the campaign, said: “Local press are some of the most trusted sources of news for our communities and we must support them in this challenging time.
“They are vital to our efforts to respond and recover from the coronavirus and yet they are facing significant financial difficulties.
“This letter is about getting a fair share of government advertising spend for local and independent press, to reflect both their importance in our communities and their financial needs.
“The Secretary of State for Health has an important role in deciding where these advertising funds go.
“If the government takes seriously the need to get valuable and timely information about coronavirus to people in every part of the country then they should get behind this campaign, which is backed by MPs from all sides of parliament.”
Local press are some of the most trusted sources of news for our communities and we must support them in this challenging time.”
MPs have received representations from local press organisations and individual journalists, many of whom are concerned about a “perceived lack of support” from government for smaller-scales news outlets, compared to major media groups, the letter states.
However, the government has taken a number of steps to support the industry including maximising the advertising government is placing in national and regional newspapers during this period.
The Culture Secretary is also urgently looking into a solution to a challenge news publishers are currently facing as a result of some advertisers choosing to prevent their advertising from being served on web pages related to “coronavirus” or “Covid-19”.
He has written to the 100 biggest brands in the UK to urge them to review their advertising policies and check they are not inappropriately blocking adverts from appearing next to news providing a vital public service.
North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain, who is one of the signatories of the letter, said local press is some of the most “trusted sources of news” in her constituency.
She added: “The need to disseminate local information as well as national news is a necessary public service and we must support that service in this challenging time.
“These newspapers are vital in the effort against the Covid-19 pandemic and yet face unprecedented difficulties and challenges as a result of that same crisis.
“The letter to the Secretary of State is about getting a fair share of government advertising spend for local and independent press, in order to reflect both their importance to our communities and their financial needs.
“The Secretary of State for Health has an important role in deciding where these advertising funds go.”
Gordon MP Richard Thomson, who formerly worked as a reporter at the Ellon Times newspaper in Aberdeenshire and is also one of the letter’s signatories, said he understands the impact of local media in being able to bring “trusted news” to people and “hold decision makers to account”.
He added: “It’s clear that the economics of local press were challenging before the coronavirus outbreak and now more than ever it’s important to do all that we can to try and support those who bring us trusted news.”
A government spokeswoman said: “Newspapers are the lifeblood of our communities, and we recognise the vital role that local media plays in ensuring the provision of reliable, high-quality information during this time.
“As part of our All-in, All together campaign we are advertising across approximately 600 titles including UK nationals, regional dailies and weeklies, and independent media.
“The Chancellor has also outlined an unprecedented package of measures to protect jobs and incomes.”