Make Google and Facebook pay for public service reporting
Politicians urged to amend digital economy bill to ensure digital giants pay a 1% levy in order to fund investigative public interest journalism
The Media Reform Coalition and National Union of Journalists are hoping to make Google and Facebook fund public service reporting in Britain.
They are seeking to persuade politicians to include a new amendment to the digital economy bill, which is currently going through parliament.
It will propose a 1% levy on the operations of the digital giants in order to pay for independent and non-profit journalism.
A statement issued by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) argues that “digital intermediaries” such as Google and Facebook “are not only amassing eye-watering profits and paying minimal tax in the UK, they are also bleeding the newspaper industry dry by sucking up advertising revenue”. It continues:
“As national and local newspapers try to cut their way out of trouble by slashing editorial budgets and shedding staff, journalistic quality is becoming a casualty.
Public interest journalism in particular has been hit the hardest as newspapers are being lured into a clickbait culture which favours the sensational and the trivial.
In the light of this, we propose a 1% levy on the operations of the largest digital intermediaries with the resulting funds redistributed to non-profit ventures with a mandate to produce original local or investigative news reporting”.
Des Freedman, professor of media and communications at Goldsmiths who chairs the MRC, points out that a similar cross-subsidy “sustained Channel 4 in its formative years”.
He says: “We believe it is time for policymakers to address the emergent gaps in the supply of diverse media and to secure the trusted and independent news system that our democracy so desperately needs.
“We must continue to press for a news media that places the public interest above those of shareholder and vested interests”.
The NUJ’s general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, says: “We have campaigned for a levy for some time and think it to be of ever greater necessity”.
The digital economy bill addresses a range of policy issues related to the electronic communications infrastructure and services, including copyright infringement, restrictions on access to online pornography and Ofcom’s relationship with the BBC.
Full disclosure: I am a signatory to the call for this amendment.