Vat rate key issue for media viability - INM chairman
The Irish Government needs to ask itself whether it wants newspapers faced with declining circulation to continue publishing in Ireland, according to the chairman of Independent News & Media (INM), Leslie Buckley.
The INM chairman made the comment at the launch of the new media centre of the 'Belfast Telegraph' in Belfast city, where Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster was the guest of honour.
In Belfast, Leslie Buckley backed the UK tax regime that means that in the North and across Britain, Vat is levied at a zero percent rate on newspaper sales.
"While we may have enjoyed a 12.5pc corporate tax rate in the Republic of Ireland, there is one area of UK taxation, First Minister, which is both pragmatic and far-sighted.
"That is the zero Vat-rate for newspapers. Independent News & Media and its competitors currently pay a vat rate of 9pc in the Republic of Ireland.
"This is a substantial burden in the face of declining readership and circulations," Mr Buckley said. He said he hoped the Government on this side of the border would see the benefit to the media arising from a zero vat rate.
"It needs to ask itself, does it want newspapers to continue? Or indeed, is it happy to allow social and digital media to be the primary source of news moving forward.
"INM puts a huge ongoing effort into maintaining the primacy of the printed word, but we cannot do it on our own," he said.
INM publishes market-leading titles including the 'Irish Independent' and 'Belfast Telegraph'.
Mr Buckley praised journalists at the 'Belfast Telegraph' for their coverage of the Brexit debate, but expressed fears about the implications of the June vote.
"I am really concerned at the implications for the Republic of Ireland of the Brexit Vote, as we are more impacted than any other member state.
"Consequently, we need to recognise, if necessary, that we can block a deal if it is not in our interest," he said.
The INM chairman said it was now important to get a deal for Northern Ireland which is grounded on an open border on the island of Ireland with continued free movement of goods across the United Kingdom and Europe.