UK newspapers want big tech to pay for using their work

Publishers are losing ad revenue while web giants rake it all in.

In the face of plummeting profits, British newspapers are trying to squeeze compensation out of tech giants that are raking in billions of ad dollars off the back of their content. With the auspice of the newspaper industry's trade body, the News Media Association (NMA), local and national publishers are calling on the likes of Facebook and Google to pay an annual financial levy to fund journalism. They also want a financial regulator to put the legal onus on tech companies for the content on their platforms amid social media's ongoing fake news crisis (which could be implemented as soon as next year, according to The Guardian).

Newspapers claim the web platforms they rely upon to distribute their output in the digital era "make no meaningful contribution to the cost of producing the original content." Worse still, they claim the ad money that is their lifeblood is "now flowing" to those behind global search engines and News Feeds. Meanwhile, the British newspaper industry has seen its revenue almost halve from £6.8 billion ($8.9 billion) in 2007 to £3.6 billion ($4.7 billion).

In addition, they seem to be throwing their support behind the EU's Article 11 copyright proposal (set to pass next year), which requires Facebook and Google et al. to pay a so-called "link tax" to publishers to share their content. The NMA also wants social media to promote "bona fide" news sources that meet a consistent quality of journalism (something Facebook, at least, is working toward). And it wants advance notice of tweaks to algorithms and terms of business that, as we've seen, can dramatically impact web traffic.

The suggestions are in response to a government-backed review of the future of the British media industry, chaired by the economist Dame Frances Cairncross, with the aim of laying the groundwork for sustainable high-quality journalism in the UK.