Business Technology

Sunday 26 May 2019

Social media facing tax hikes under proposal to tackle 'fake news' threat

Timmy Dooley Photo: Tom Burke
Timmy Dooley Photo: Tom Burke
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Levies will be placed on social media giants to fund newspapers and combat the threat of fake news under new proposals.

The measures being examined by Fianna Fáil propose expanding the remit of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and the Press Council, or establishing a similar body, to oversee a fund to finance journalism and traditional media streams.

It would also see technology firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter forced to pay a new digital advertising tax on revenues they generate.

Initially a kitty would be funded by the €28m collected in VAT from newspapers annually to help them produce content.

This subsidy would eventually be replaced by revenues generated from taxing new media organisations for running adverts.

Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley said it was important steps are taken to protect the key role journalism plays in democracy.

"At the moment if you put an ad in the Irish Independent, 'The Irish Times', or the 'Examiner' that money is going towards supporting the creation of the content that goes into the newspaper," said Mr Dooley.

"The digital platforms have disrupted that. They access somebody else's content, pay nothing for it, sell advertising around it and no money goes back to sourcing the content.

"We have to do something to rectify that."

Fianna Fáil previously called for a scheme that would enable local radio stations to benefit from public money to produce important local news and content. Mr Dooley said similar steps must be taken to protect print media.

He said it was vital to protect against the threat of fake news.

"If you take away the fourth estate, all that journalism that is there, properly researched and curated information that can be stood over, there will be problems.

"We will have a real problem long term in terms of a threat to democracy.

"Initially you create some of the money from the VAT and put it in to a fund that is administered by some kind of a hybrid of the BAI and the Press Council. The role of the BAI would have to be expanded because you don't want politicians getting the money.

"If you look at the Sound and Vision fund that is already part of the BAI and the way they support independent production companies, producers, and local radio stations, they have developed a model for that.

"My view is we should build on that, fund it initially from the Exchequer because the crisis is so real, stark and immediate."

The calls come as British Prime Minister Theresa May launched a review into whether state intervention is needed in the UK to protect local and national newspapers.

Irish Independent

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