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Irish newspapers join forces in call to cut VAT levy on print as news body chairman warns ‘future of journalism at crossroads’

By Dorothy Musariri

Local and national newspapers in Ireland are calling on the Irish Government to slash the VAT rate on newspapers to help protect the industry for future generations.

A campaign led by Newsbrands Ireland and Local Ireland, bodies which represent both the national and local press in the country, as part of Journalism Matters week, which starts today, is calling for the levy change.

Currently consumers pay a reduced 9 per cent VAT rate for newspapers in Ireland, but the campaign is pressing the government to use part of its 2019 budget to reduce the rate down to 5 per cent.

It has also asked for Ireland’s draconian defamation laws to be reformed “to ensure that the stories that need to be told, are told”, according to a spokesperson.

Newsbrands Ireland represents 17 national daily and Sunday newspapers in Ireland, including the Irish Independent (pictured), Irish Examiner and Irish Times. Local Ireland represents a large group of weekly titles.

Their joint campaign also calls for the appointment of a Minister for Media and a News Publishers Media Fund to help drive innovation and investment and investing in a training support scheme for all journalists.

Chairman of Newsbrand Ireland, Vincent Crowley, said: “The future of journalism is at a crossroads and government inaction now is simply not an option.

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“Without the supports and investment, and clarity on VAT rates, the sector will not be able to thrive and invest, but will falter and publications will be forced to close or at best scale back on the good, independent journalism that has been a bedrock of Irish democracy.

“The forthcoming budget gives this government the opportunity to send a strong message that it appreciates a vibrant news media industry in this country and is seeking ways to protect it for future generations.”

Throughout this week, titles including The Irish Times and Irish Examiner will feature opinion pieces celebrating the value of an independent press.

There’s also a video series created by Newsbrands Ireland, which features 15 examples of society  changing public interest and investigative journalism.

President of Local Ireland, Frank Mulrennan, said: “Aside from the loss to democratic life in our society, the losses will be big in many communities – jobs will go, not just in the newspaper titles, but many of the supporting ones in newsagents and other indirect jobs.

“Without strong and healthy local newspapers, politicians will be challenged in maintaining engagement with the electorate because local newspapers reach at least 1.5m people across Ireland each week.”

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