Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fianna Fáil plans online levy to help fund journalism

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Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A levy should be charged on digital advertising in order to help fund professional print and online journalism, according to a new policy document compiled by Fianna Fáil.

The main Opposition party will today launch a paper in which they promise to appoint a minister for media if back in government.

The policy put a heavy emphasis on the need to properly fund quality reporting in the face of falling revenues.

A key proposal is a 6pc levy on digital advertising sales which are expected to be worth around €500m this year.

Such a tax would yield around a €30m fund which "would ensure that the success of an online platform does not come at the cost of independent public interest journalism".

The vast majority of the projected €500m digital advertising market will be dominated by Google and Facebook, who will take in an estimated 80pc of the total spend.

"Unfortunately, this has not been to the benefit of newspapers or journalists. The reasons include the shift in advertising spend to online media and the increased competition for that revenue, declining print revenues in terms of circulation (cover price) and advertising spend, and the relatively immature nature of the subscription/paywall model deployed by some newspaper publishers," the Fianna Fáil paper states.

Revenue

It is estimated that annual revenue per user from a print customer is €140 per annum while that of a digital user is €17.

"The exchanging of 'print euros' for 'digital cent' online inevitably means that Irish newspaper publishers are no longer able to allocate adequate resources to provide high- quality journalism," the report says, adding that many other countries provide "significant support" for newspaper publishers.

Fianna Fáil is also proposing to expand the remit of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), which is currently focused on radio and television.

The party argues that when the BAI was established, print media did not need financial support in order to survive.

"It is increasingly obvious that this is no longer the case. The time has now come for the state to broaden its funding remit of the media."

Its plan includes a 'Print Journalism Unit' which will develop criteria and devise innovative new schemes to support the work of journalists, through the dispersal of grant aid.

Another recommendation is a review of Ireland's complex defamation laws, which are seen as some of the most draconian in Europe.

It adds that there is a need for an expert group to review the role of media in Irish life.

Irish Independent

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