No, Tech Companies Shouldn’t Fund Journalism

James Ball:

The intention behind these proposals for tech intervention is good. But the journalism industry needs to accept that there is no injustice in much of the revenue we lost. For much of its history, journalism was supported by patronage: the golden era of vastly-profitable journalism which could still serve the public interest was a mere few decades, or a profession dating back centuries. Advertising allowed journalism to get away from that, but a return to patronage—via tech firms—isn’t the answer.
Neither are the financial woes of journalism solely the fault of any tech company. It is not unfair that the internet is simply better for consumers for finding these services than newspapers were, and it’s not the fault of technology companies that complacent newspaper groups didn’t spot the changing tide and invest in the next generation of such listings platforms. The honorable exception is the Guardian Media Group, which built up the Autotrader car sales brand online and eventually sold its stake for around £900 million, securing the newspaper’s trust fund for the future.


Tying the future of journalism to a tech or social media levy shackles the two even closer together, making a already dangerously codependent relationship even less healthy—and potentially compromising journalism in the eyes of readers. It would also let tech off the hook: one of the main justifications for corporate tax is making companies contribute towards the societies they live in, the infrastructure they rely on, and to offset the harms that they cause.

Rational points on an obviously bad idea -- one which keeps coming up, year after year, with the calls getting louder and louder.


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