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Thursday 12 March 2020

Rishi’s Murdoch Hacking Bung

Today’s front pages have placed great emphasis on yesterday’s Budget, delivered for the first time by new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. His measures to boost the economy were heavily promoted by right-wing titles, but for some reason, they were less keen on telling their readers just how much their proprietors stood to gain from one of those measures. But not every observer was fooled by this selective reporting.
Bunged Rupe some dosh? Did I?

As the BBC has reported, “Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the 20% tax on e-books and online newspapers, magazines and journals will be abolished on 1 December”. The Budget statement told “The government expects the publishing industry, including e-booksellers, to pass on the benefit of this relief to consumers”.

The Publishers’ Association was not unhappy at the news. “We are delighted that the government has decided to zero-rate VAT on digital books and journals in the Budget. It's fantastic that the Chancellor has acknowledged the value of reading. The decision to axe the reading tax will bring an end to the illogical and unfair tax on those who need or prefer to read digitally and should contribute to an increase in literacy in the UK”.
How many tens of millions, Rupe?

But, as Jim Waterson at the Guardian has pointed out, it is not just those selling e-books who will benefit. So will those in the newspaper industry, especially if they have already monetised their content formally - by introducing subscriptions. Like, oh I dunno, the FT, the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, and the Murdoch Times.

So how much will Rishi end up bunging Rupe? Waterson ran some rough and ready numbers. “Very loose fag packet numbers: Times has 300,000 online subs … Hypothetically let's pretend all are at £26pm headline rate = income of £94m a year including VAT … If they keep the cost to consumer the same, that's a £20m boost to News UK”. News UK is at present losing £14 million a year - net of exceptional legal costs.
The Murdoch press’ total loss for the last financial year was almost £68 million. Sunak’s move to mitigate their losses was not lost on campaigning group Hacked Off, where director Kyle Taylor observed “This state handout of millions of pounds to the Murdochs and other media owners comes as several of these publishers face extensive litigation. These publishers should be investigated and reformed; not handed a wad of public cash”.

Taylor also pointed out “the Government has today announced that relief will apply to the same newspapers which continue to wreak havoc in the lives of innocent people. Weeks after the death of Caroline Flack, this announcement provides a bumper tax break to the very same companies which subjected Ms Flack to months of abusive and intrusive coverage. It is an insult to all the victims of press abuse”. Well, quite.
What our free and fearless press did to Ms Flack, and many others, should not result in them being handed tens of millions in tax breaks. But that is exactly what Rishi Sunak did yesterday. As Jim Waterson observed, “Abolition of online news tax is a massive victory for News UK, who have been campaigning on this for years”.

Thus enriched, the press will be emboldened to carry on as before. Not good enough.
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Anonymous said...

What's all the fuss about?

It's what tories do....fill their own pockets.

Anonymous said...

They gave with one hand and took away with the other...