Newell: Tech Giants Should Pay For Journalism From Which They Profit

Without action now to allow news media journalism to survive and prosper we risk creating a world in which we are unable to discern fact from fiction, as the tech giants recycle ever-increasing swathes of fake news and harmful content, News Media Association chief executive David Newell has said.   

In an opinion piece for The Times this week, Mr Newell outlined the arguments for a licence fee agreement between the tech giants and publishers so that Google and Facebook pay for the journalism from which they prosper.  

The News Media Association has proposed the idea in its  submission to the Cairncross review into the future of sustainable journalism, as part of a list of 42 options and initiatives to support Britain’s local, regional and national press.

Writing in The Times, Mr Newell said: “Journalism of the kind that you read in these pages, and in hundreds of national, regional and local news media titles across Britain, has the power to change our society for the better.

“Powerful stories such as The Times’s investigation into abuse in Rotherham dominated the public agenda long after they were first published. Local newspapers are doing the same work for communities across the country, scrutinising authority on behalf of their readers.

“This important service costs money to provide. News brands, newspapers in print and digital, are big investors in journalism, accounting for the majority of news provision in Britain.

“Publishers should be fairly rewarded so that they can continue to maintain independent journalism. But the rise of the internet, and in particular its two dominant platforms, has snapped the relationship between the content creators and revenues.

“News media journalism has never been more in demand, reaching greater audiences than ever before across print and digital platforms. Yet between them Google and Facebook, which produce no original news content yet benefit greatly from it, are siphoning off all the growth in digital revenues by making money out of our content without any fair exchange. Not only is this fundamentally unjust, it poses a direct threat to the sustainability of journalism.

“The News Media Association, representing local and national news media publishers across the UK, has called for a content licence fee agreement between the tech giants and news media publishers, supported by a UK publisher’s right. This measure would go some way to ensuring that the content creators are fairly rewarded for their investment.

“It is one of a number of proposals we have submitted to the Cairncross review into the sustainability of high-quality journalism. 

“Alongside Ofcom and the UK broadcasters, we are also calling for independent regulatory oversight of the tech platforms to incentivise them to promote verified news over harmful content.

“A competition inquiry into the dominance of these companies and the role of intermediaries in the digital advertising supply chain would also help us all to understand the influence they exert over the advertising marketplace.

“Without action now, we risk a world in which we are unable to discern fact from fiction, as the tech giants endlessly recycle ever-increasing swathes of fake news and harmful content. That represents a fundamental threat to independent news provision which is essential to our democracy.”