The UK government is to hand newspapers an additional £35 million in ad revenue as part of its “Covid-19 communications campaign,” prompting accusations that Westminster is in the pocket of “tax-dodging billionaire” media owners.

The Treasury published details of the eyebrow-raising financial boost for Britain’s print newspaper industry on Thursday, revealing that the millions will be spent over “the next three months” to communicate coronavirus guidance and advice to the public.

The sizable injection of taxpayers’ money into the mainstream print media – which is largely bankrolled by billionaires such as Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere – has riled many people on social media.

“One way to pay for the headlines,” wrote one person on Twitter. Others went as far as claiming this was nothing short of “corruption,” and intimated that this huge amount of cash could jeopardize the UK government being held to account during the coronavirus crisis.

Let’s give tax dodging billionaires £35m so they don’t hold us to account

Whoah Whoah Whoah WTF. This is corruption. How can the government justify spending this amount of money to newspapers? Who’s holding the government to account on this?

If we give you massive advertising expenditure will you promise to be nice to us please..

Other commenters were of the opinion that the money could be better spent on people and organizations in desperate need of it, such as the homeless and mental health charities, who have particularly suffered during years of austerity. Humorous gifs were also posted, as people expressed their disgust.

The newspaper sector was already experiencing a torrid time even before the pandemic, with sales having slumped by two-thirds in 20 years as it battles to adapt to the 21st century digital age, according to analysis by Press Gazette. 

An online campaign was launched earlier this year in which British journalists from the establishment media used Twitter to encourage readers to #buyapaper to help support the struggling industry.

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