David Leigh in The Guardian writes:
Consumers won’t pay for online news. But they are of course paying, now and for the foreseeable future, and in huge numbers, for the necessary broadband connections.
A small levy on UK broadband providers – no more than £2 a month on each subscriber’s bill – could be distributed to news providers in proportion to their UK online readership. This would solve the financial problems of quality newspapers, whose readers are not disappearing, but simply migrating online.
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.
Why stop at forcing all Internet newspapers to fund newspapers. Let’s also add $10 per Internet connection and give it to Hollywood. And $5 per Internet connection and give to book sellers. And so on.
Now you may think such madness will never happen in NZ. Well I need to remind people that at just the last election Labour’s policy was:
investigate the viability of a small copyright levy on Internet access, which would develop the digital platform for accessing Kiwi content mentioned above. Funds raised could go to content creators through an arms length collecting and distribution arrangement
Let’s be clear what people mean when they talk of an Internet access levy. As almost all of the population develops Internet access, such levies are effectively a tax. So the Guardian writer is effectively saying taxpayers should have to fund newspapers, and Labour here was saying taxpayers should have to fund content creators!
I say no to Internet taxes!