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UPD Guardian Journo Demands £2 UK Broadband ISP Tax to Save Newspapers

Monday, September 24th, 2012 (7:42 am) - Score 1,628

The Guardian’s executive editor of investigations, David Leigh, has ignited a fresh debate by calling upon all broadband ISPs to force their customers into paying a “levy” of £2 a month per connection in order to help save the country’s struggling newspapers.

According to Leigh’s article, the internet is widely believed to be “killing off quality newspapers“. Meanwhile the rival licence-fee funded BBC website is said to “guarantee that [people] will never actually need to pay for a supply of reliable day-to-day news” and apparently almost everything else is all just “superficial junk” (what about BSkyB / Sky News?).

At the same time Leigh suggests that web advertising revenues can only pay for a fraction of the “high-quality investigative journalism” of commercial newspapers. On top of that Leign states that Paywalls, which prevent consumers from accessing online content unless you pay for it, will “never really work in a UK context” (the Financial Times adopted this solution several years ago with mixed success).

David Leigh said:

There are almost 20m UK households that are paying upwards of £15 a month for a good broadband connection, plus another 5m mobile internet subscriptions. People willingly pay this money to a handful of telecommunications companies, but pay nothing for the news content they receive as a result, whose continued survival is generally agreed to be a fundamental plank of democracy.

A £2 levy on top – collected easily from the small number of UK service providers (BT, Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk etc) who would add it on to consumers’ bills – would raise more than £500m annually. It could be collected by a freestanding agency, on the lines of the BBC licence fee, and redistributed automatically to “news providers” according to their share of UK online readership.”

Apparently the proceeds from this levy could then be re-distributed, based on existing audience share, to each of the various mainstream newspapers (e.g. The Guardian could expect to receive about £100m a year). If any of this sounds familiar then that’s because the music industry has repeatedly coined the idea of an almost identical £1-£2 music tax for UK internet subscribers (example).

Both are interesting ideas and worthy of discussion, yet they also raise some serious questions. For example, does this mean we’d all be entitled to a “free” copy of every newspaper? Who decides what qualifies as a quality newspaper? Opinions vary. Wouldn’t this make it difficult for new print-based entrants to enter the market if they wanted to? What about those who don’t want to read newspapers, do they still have to pay and if not then how is that tracked? Is such a levy potentially anti-competitive versus rival online content?

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with this idea is that once you apply the principal to one industry, which some might argue has failed to adapt to the internet’s ever changing landscape, then where does it stop? Why not pay to save every industry that runs into similar trouble (e.g. music, film etc.)? Imposing and enforcing such a levy would be complicated and we’ve yet to see any real interest in similar ideas from ISPs.

But Leigh warns that without such a solution daily papers (published newsprints) might, in just five years’ time, be gone for good.

UPDATE 2:24pm

Internet providers have begun to respond, with the ISPA UK describing the idea as “flawed” (here).

Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Avatar DanielM says:

    “help save the country’s struggling newspapers”

    they are failing for one simple reason. they don’t report real news. Just celeb BS or complete propaganda (Its anti-syria propaganda now) or just plan lies. (Such as the anti iran story from the times.

  2. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    I note that the Guardian has been losing money for some time. Presumably this tax would be distributed to all media companies, even those located off-shore, those taking full advantage of tax avoidance loopholes?

    1. Avatar Bob2002 says:

      >I note that the Guardian has been losing money for some time.

      Things are so bad Polly Toynbee may have to help out by selling her Tuscan villa. 😉

  3. Avatar Lance says:

    Seriously? £2 a month to support newspapers that mostly publish pro-specific-political-party tripe or celebrity gossip? No thanks. The internet has killed plenty of old business models but created many new ones. Newspapers choose to offer their content online for free and before they did so you could still get quality news from plenty of sources online, many of which seem more impartial.

    On the other hand print newspapers do indeed do some quality work but taking money from broadband ISP subscribers (access and content are generally separate)? Surely there’s a better way. Or is this another veiled attempt to have the BBC axed?

    1. Avatar Bob says:

      The average Newspaper is now rubbish. Local newspapers are even worse 60% adverts and the rest old local sports news and articles plugging localbusnisees with a page or two of pretty poorly written local news.

  4. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    I have not taken a newspaper of any description for decades. They are only interested in sensational stories, any true story gets twisted and 90% of what appears in news print is crap, 9% adverts and 1% truth of things they cannot alter i.e. stocks and shares. I can’t wait for the day that all newspapers disappear.

    As for a £2 donation to them, they can sod off.

  5. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Sorry, Mr. Leigh; as a subscriber (to a competitor) I don’t agree that print media can’t survive – it has to adapt as other industries (i.e. those that the print media has always criticised for failing to do so) have had to do. Nice try but I’m not going to pay, in addition to a subscription to a print media that I do choose to read (because, and this will come as a great surprise to the industry dinosaurs, it offers me things I want), a subscription to one I don’t (deliberately – that’s my choice, not yours). I don’t owe you a living, Mr. Leigh: you have to earn it. If The Guardian is failing, then look at the content and you just might see why. And that’s a problem that a subsidy won’t solve no more than the native motor industry was saved by public subsidies in the 1970s. Lazy journalism.

    1. Avatar Scuttlebroom says:

      dragoneast wrote: “I don’t owe you a living, Mr. Leigh: you have to earn it.”

      Couldn’t have put it better myself, well said!

  6. Avatar Bob says:

    Totally daft.THe world changes and moves on. Newpapers have been left behind by new technology. On this basis we would have had a levy on petrol to save Horse drawn tranport and a levy on gas to save the coal industry

    Newpapers should be left to fad away.A few of the better ones may survive but most will go. We have the same thing with Pubs & Post Offices hardly anyone uses them but demands will be made to save them.

  7. Avatar adslmax says:

    Hell no. Evolve or die.

  8. Avatar Bob says:

    FTTC and a closed WiFi network would be the best way to deliver Broadband to the very rural areaa. This world work particularly well in East Anglia as the flat nasture of the region would mean a WiFi network could cover a reasonable area keeping costs down. The frequencies used for would meam ample bandwidth as well

  9. Avatar RD says:

    The same newspapers that every day report on anti welfare/spongers and how free market capitalism should replace big goverment etc.This £2 tax would be the same as welfare for the rich which is hilarious.These chumps love thier capitalism yet here they are being dominated by the internet and crying out for big goverment help so thier outdated models and monopolys like the murdoc empire dont get run out of town.Well lads here is your capitalism i hope you like it and no you cannot have £2 in the same way a normal person who’s business has failed cannot have £2 from every citizen so they can stay in business.I hope eventually the daily mail and the sun dissapear so we can get some truth from the world media for once.Right now its all pro goverment propaganda and what lady gaga has worn recently which no one with half a brain gives a hoot about.To actually get some decent worthwhile stories you have to look on the internet.The arab spring comes to mind here and how they failed to tell everyone about the CIA inside syria and what they were up too.

    1. Avatar DanielM says:

      And how they don’t report on Bahrain.. But syria is in the news everyday!

  10. Avatar Kyle says:

    It isn’t April 1st, is it?

  11. Avatar Timeless says:

    if they actually reported the important stuff and were unbiased then there might have been merit to the idea, but considering most stuff in print is drivel and celeb or boobs focused then whats the point.. you only find the most important stories online anyway..

    a good example would be some of the recent benefit reform issues or NHS related (lm not going to go into all that) if it wasnt for their online content it wouldnt even see print of any kind.

  12. Avatar Darren says:

    He is having a laugh surely.

  13. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    What you guy’s are not taking into account here is the cost of phone tapping equipment these days!

    That shit costs big money plus all the overtime etc.

    The paper press can all eat shit in my humble uneducated opinion…

  14. Avatar alan says:

    I haven`t purchased a newspaper for the past 5 years.
    Why – because I don`t believe a word they say.
    As a previous comment said, most are interested in celebs – the majority I have never heard of.

  15. Avatar Bob says:

    Most Newspapers ought to be prosecuted under the trade decription act as the amont of news in them is minimal. Most contain mainly adds, made up stories acticles on so called celebs and padded out with TV listings

  16. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    Why do some of these post NOT appear in there correct time order? As a person makes a post could in be given a number? So as one comes back to check on new additions they are in the correct order of posting.

  17. Avatar James Smith says:

    I demand they put on a £5.00 charge to save my struggling manure business….my sales are plummeting due to the cheap cr*p people on the internet.

  18. Avatar Nathan Hobbs says:

    What about all the people who used to write instruction manuals.

    Or all those people who used to fix things that people can now find out online how to fix themselves?

    What about all the shops that have lost out to internet traders… should they be compensated?

    If the argument is that it’s unfair as the BBC receive mandatory payments then surely the solution is to scrap the TV licence fee?

  19. Avatar DTMark says:

    Is the guy at the Guardian also calling for common ownership of the means of production, too 😉

  20. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    We should really keep “The Sun” and have them just print page 3…

  21. Avatar Bob says:

    Simple answer is we now have far to many Daily National. THere is not enough room for them all many like the Guardian have tiny circulations.Last time Iooked the Guardian had a circulation of about 300,00.Mostly going into Public Libraries, Left wing politicians and and schools.

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