'Don’t lockdown journalists' NUJ and news providers tell UK government
19 March 2020
News-gatherers could be given “key worker” status, a government representative today told the NUJ and senior media industry representatives.
Speaking at a conference call attended by the union and managers from all the major print news groups, a senior government member announced an informal consultation about which media workers should be excused from lockdown provisions.
The meeting provided a forum for the NUJ and newspaper publishers to outline their issues to the government as journalists responded to the unfolding pandemic.
The industry representatives all reported they were experiencing record demand for news at the same time as an unprecedented squeeze on advertising revenue.
Some suggested this had fallen to half of that recorded in the comparable period last year.
The newspaper groups’ requests included a large, national government-funded advertising campaign, relief from national insurance (NI) payments and PAYE obligations, and interest-free loans.
Tim Dawson, representing the NUJ, highlighted the fact that freelance journalists had already experienced a catastrophic collapse in work and needed urgent financial support.
Many freelance journalists have already seen work and commissions cancelled for in the coming weeks and months.
The union urged the government to link any financial relief for the newspaper industry to guarantees on existing staffing levels.
The NUJ also raised the need for journalists in core news-gathering roles in print and in public service broadcasting to have access to the childcare provision available for key workers. The industry backed this and also called for the same approach to vital workers’ roles in the supply chain, including printers, delivery drivers, and distribution staff.
Some of the news bosses described the media as having taken on the guise of the “4th emergency service” – particularly given newspaper readers’ demographic. They called for government action to keep open every part of the process required to deliver up-to-date printed news to people's homes.
The NUJ endorsed the TUC’s call for an urgent joint taskforce, comprising trade unions, employers and government, to ensure the interests of workers, including the self-employed, were central to the emergency measures put in place.
In a separate meeting earlier today, Labour’s front bench representatives assured the NUJ that the party would support demands for journalists to be classed as key workers. An opposition spokesperson promised union officials Labour would demand income support for all affected workers, including the self-employed.
More updates from the NUJ today
Covid-19: update from the NUJ’s freelance office
NUJ information - coronavirus