Archant, Midland News Association and Newsquest all halved their furlough claims in May as the news industry became gradually less reliant on Government support.
Archant, the UK’s fourth-largest regional publisher, claimed a tenth in May of what it did in February – sitting most recently in the £25,001 to £50,000 per month bracket.
In May, according to the most recent figures, Newsquest claimed between £10,001 and £25,000 – down from £50,001-£100,000 in February and £25,001-£50,000 in every other month since December.
Midland News Association, which publishes dailies Express & Star and the Shropshire Star and a series of weeklies, claimed between £25,001 and £50,000 in May – down from £50,001-£100,000 in April and £100,001-£250,000 in the preceding three months.
Al Jazeera stopped using UK Government cash in May for the first time this year, while Tindle’s Devon operation reduced its claim from £10,001-£25,000 to up to £10,000.
In May The Economist joined the list of publishers who realised they had done better than expected during the pandemic and paid back their Government furlough cash – following in the footsteps of The Spectator, the Telegraph, the Guardian, PA Media and Future.
All other news media using the scheme stayed in the same banded ranges from April to May. Many are regional publishers still facing the same pressures on advertising and circulation revenues, some of whom have as yet been unable to bring back suspended free print editions.
That includes City AM, which has been claiming between £10,001 and £25,000 per month since January and is aiming for an autumn return.
Other media companies such as Mail publisher DMGT, and Sun and Times owner News UK have not used the scheme.
Reach, the UK’s largest commercial publisher, furloughed staff last year but has not used the scheme since public figures began to be released from December.
Meanwhile regional publisher JPI Media ended furlough for all staff in April.
Between December and May the news industry claimed somewhere in between £2.6m and £7.5m from the furlough scheme.
The biggest month was in February when between £765,018.26 and £1.9m was claimed.
In May, this was down to a range of £155,011.30 to £600,000.
The scheme, under which the Government pays 80% of an employee’s wages for hours they do not work while on furlough, is due to end on 30 September.
The latest figures for May reflect the penultimate month of this full scope of the scheme as companies were forced to start picking up 10% of the bill from 1 July.
Before December HMRC was legally unable to name companies who had received furlough payments because of taxpayer confidentiality rules under the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005.
It is now required to name on a monthly basis the employers who have claimed cash, and how much within various banded ranges, due to a Treasury direction made under the Coronavirus Act 2020 in November when the furlough scheme was extended.
However, this means we can only look at claims made from December onwards.