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TOPIC: Borough's community newspaper among news providers threatened by lockdown

Borough's community newspaper among news providers threatened by lockdown
07 Apr 2020 22:28 #5310

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The financial security of the borough's community newspaper, Enfield Dispatch, is being seriously undermined by the Covid crisis and, like independent news providers across the country, and the social enterprise (Socent) sector more generally, it is falling between the cracks in the government schemes designed to support business during the lockdown.

Despite this, publisher Social Spider CIC says it is committed to continuing to print 10,000 copies a month and will not be "furloughing" the news teams that produce the Dispatch and three sister papers. Social Spider is backing a call for emergency government funding for the independent news sector.

"Local news matters now more than ever"

Despite the loss of most of its distribution points throughout the borough, there was a full print run for the April issue of Enfield Dispatch, described by editor James Cracknell as its most important edition to date, and volunteers were used to carry out door-to-door deliveries. James has tweeted that "local news matters now more than ever" and has suggested that readers who pick up the paper from its regular newstands outside stations should take a few extra copies and put them through neighbours' letterboxes.

"The government is happy to pay £55,468 for our team to do nothing, but is offering £0 to support us to provide news..."

The absurd situation in which the Dispatch's publisher finds itself has been explained by Social Spider boss David Floyd in a series of tweets:

Call for emergency funding for the independent news sector

save local journalismThree actions required to help independent news providers survive the Covid crisis

Enfield Dispatch editor James Cracknell has joined local news providers across the country, both print and online, in calling for government support to keep them afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

An open letter from the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) says that without emergency funding communities across the UK will lose their independent press at a time when they need it most, emphasizing the important role that these publications provide, giving "essential, verified and useful information to the communities they serve."

Both the mainstream press, whose members are represented by the News Media Association (NMA), and ICNN's 108 member news organisations, are facing a collapse in advertising revenue, particularly sharp in the case of advertising by local firms. ICNN's members could be out of business in the course of a few weeks. The NMA has been lobbying government to supports its members by diverting key public information messages to its members. ICNN says that when doing so the government must not ignore the independent media, which also play key roles:

"Many of our members are the only news publishers in their areas, some covering entire counties and cities. If these publishers are forced to close, the UK will be left with many more news black holes which we will struggle to fill again. We have stats that prove, even in areas with lots of local press, some of our members have the most engaged audiences."

Unfortunately, few independent media outlets fall into the small business category and thus qualify for government coronavirus support. Most are sole traders, for whom there is no support scheme as yet. The cost of keeping these essential news outlets afloat would be low:

"We cannot stress enough how a little funding will go a very long way with our members. The amount is very small – we are basically talking about covering individual salaries in some cases, to keep an entire publication going. None of the money will go to shareholders or to cover large overheads."

In Enfield James Cracknell has been seeking backing from the borough's three MPs, and yesterday Edmonton MP Kate Osamor tweeted in support.

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Borough's community newspaper among news providers threatened by lockdown
12 Apr 2020 00:49 #5311

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David Floyd from Social Spider, publisher of Enfield Dispatch, has commented about the inadequacy of the support provided to the charity and social sector by the chancellor of the exchequer :

Given the estimates that charities are set to lose at least £4 billion in income during the first 12 weeks of the Covid lockdown, the £350 million allocated to small community charities (around 150,000 of them even if social enterprises are not included) seems a long way off what’s needed.

The money is nowhere near enough for the small community charities – it would be amazing if it helped one in five of those that need it – and it ignores many larger charities (supporting millions of vulnerable people) entirely.

It also stacks up particularly badly against the £585 million worth of business rates relief given to a single supermarket group (Tesco), who are about to pay £635 million in dividends to shareholders.

Alongside this relatively paltry provision, the Chancellor has declined to make amendments that would enable charities and social enterprises who have lost income but still have similar (or increased) demand for their services to take advantage of his (generally very good) ‘furlough’ scheme to support workers.

His article is entitled " 5 things we learnt when voluntary sector leaders asked the government for a funding deal to support charities and social enterprises through Covid – and what happened next didn’t blow our minds ".

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