Mitchinson Calls For Fair Deal With The Platforms  

The Yorkshire Post editor James Mitchinson has called on peers to work towards creating a fair deal between the tech companies and the news media industry so that publishers can be appropriately rewarded for their investment in news.

Mr Mitchinson was giving evidence at a Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee session this week on Democracy and Digital Technologies alongside Jessica Cecil, director of the BBC Online Project, Matthew d’Ancona, editor and partner, Tortoise. 

Mr Mitchinson said: “To help us be that prosperous, thriving, free local press that is able to scrutinize local MPs for the long term future, our plea to this committee would be to ensure that the tech companies, the platforms, give us a fair deal for the content that they carry on their platforms.

“Because we are not receiving anywhere near the level of revenue that the hard work, the diligence, the professionalism, the training, the development, the time taken to produce that content merits. So, I would genuinely like to see the size of the revenue made by the tech platforms and then contemplate how we’d go about distributing that more fairly.”

Asked by Committee member Lord Black of Brentwood what the Government could do to ensure better public debate in the digital age, Mr d’Ancona said the next budget should include a digital levy to redistribute the tech giants’ profits.

Mr Mitchinson said: “There is acute, if not urgent, requirement for the tech platforms to distribute the revenue generated from the content that we produce more fairly and in a way that we can reinvest into our products, into our digital technology, into creating really user-friendly environments where people can engage in the debate and feel like a stakeholder in society rather than being on the outside.

“That, for me, is the priority. That redistribution of the wealth generated by work done by people employed by the regional news.”

Lord Black later asked Mr Mitchinson about the breadth of Online Harms White Paper, he said: “Do you think that the way the Online Harms White Paper was couched so wide that effective legislation resulting from it is going to be very difficult to achieve? And is there a case for having a much more slimmed down version of that, which really targets the platforms?”

Mr Mitchinson responded: “I do think that the trusted sources of news and information would require some sort of journalistic exemption, otherwise I fear a healthy prosperous free press might be threatened by that paper.”

He also called for an end to the boycotting of news media outlets by the Government and the blocking of journalists by MPs.  

He said: “I do think now is a good moment for the standoff, the skirmish, between media and politicians to come to an end. I don’t think it’s healthy for the government to boycott the today programme on the BBC, and I think we all benefit from having long form, detailed scrutiny of politicians.

“We’re unable to ask constructive criticisms, well-meant questions, on behalf of the people who politicians represent. I think this is a good moment for this protracted war between the state and the media to come to an end, because I just don’t think it’s helpful.”