UK newspapers body demands a levy from web giants

26 Sep 2018

Image: Y Waters/Shutterstock

Newspapers are the biggest investors in news and UK trade group believes web giants should pay for the news from which they profit.

UK media industry body News Media Association (NMA) has called for the creation of a levy against web giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to fund journalism.

In a body of 42 recommendations it made to the Cairncross review into the future of sustainable journalism, the NMA points out that the content generated by local and national newspapers is enabling the enormous revenues and profits enjoyed by the web giants. But, at the same time, the news organisations are being pummelled by declining advertising as it goes online.

“The primary focus of concern today is the loss of advertising revenues, which have previously sustained quality national and local journalism and are now flowing to the global search engines and social media companies who make no meaningful contribution to the cost of producing the original content from which they so richly benefit,” the NMA said.

It pointed out that although they produce no original content, both Facebook and Google extract nearly 100pc of the growth in digital ad expenditure in the UK.

Content has never been richer, its creators never poorer

Despite the drop in revenues, the NMA pointed out that established national and local news brands are reaching bigger audiences overall than they have for decades as people’s appetite for news grows and they are able to consume it on the platform or device of their choice, demonstrating the high public demand for trusted news.

One of the headline solutions proposed by the NMA is the introduction of a “fair, open and equitable” content licence fee agreement, supported by a UK ‘publishers’ right’, to ensure that the tech companies pay for the content from which they benefit.

The NMA also joined Ofcom and UK broadcasters in calling for independent regulatory oversight of the tech platforms.

It highlighted four key areas to protect journalism:

  • a competition enquiry into the dominance of the tech companies and intermediates in the digital advertising supply chain
  • a fair and open content licence fee agreement
  • that tech companies receive the same legal responsibility as publishers for the content they carry
  • greater openness and transparency over algorithms

“Measures of success for the review in 10 years’ time would see a vibrant and well-funded independent news media sector marked by an increase in the number of news media journalists, regular launches of new local titles by dedicated commercial news media companies, and a rebalancing of the advertising market, so that revenues follow audiences and advertisers can once again be confident that their brand messages are seen by real people viewing real content in a brand-safe environment,” the NMA said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years