Fund newspapers from a broadband levy!

September 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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 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.

Appalling.

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!

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33 Responses to “Fund newspapers from a broadband levy!”

  1. kowtow (7,949 comments) says:

    I believe income tax was introduced in Britain during the Napoleonic wars ,as an emergency measure. Look at the monster it has become!

    Labour and media control. Karl du Fresne’s latest is good.
    http://karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/a-milestone-for-press-council-perhaps.html

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  2. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    Breathtaking robbery sponsored by a columnist from the left-wing Guardian. Why am I not surprised?

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  3. hmmokrightitis (1,571 comments) says:

    FFS, lets tax people for a failing business model, what a great idea. Bring back buggy whips for a start.

    If your model isnt making money, theres a reason for that. Me, I look forward to the demise of the last newspaper, when they finally get that the model is broken, we dont accept shit news from biased greedy tossers and their hidden agendas.

    Change the model. Give people what they want, what they value, they will pay for it, willingly. Novel huh? Who knew?

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  4. Brad (75 comments) says:

    “Labour here was saying taxpayers should have to fund content creators!”. Come on David, I know you like to stretch the truth, but your extract even shows that they did not say this, but rather advocated examining whether it would be worthwhile

    [DPF: Sticking a commitment to examine it in a manifesto, shows they are supportive in principle. Otherwise why mention it at all? And if elected would have been enough for them to claim a mandate to do it. If you don't want Labour associated with such daft policies, lobby them to drop it]

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  5. Griff (6,995 comments) says:

    As long as the money goes to the porn industry as well :shock:

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  6. F E Smith (3,315 comments) says:

    This would solve the financial problems of quality newspapers, whose readers are not disappearing, but simply migrating online.

    Translates as: “Help, we are going bankrupt!”

     Typical left wing morons.  An ever and rapidly shrinking segment of the population read what they write, so they want the State to pay them to keep writing what fewer and fewer people want to read. 

    Grasping, self-righteous and arrogant nonsense, Mr Leigh.

    EDIT: You know, the great thing is that Fairfax is busy going bankrupt as well. Another quality left wing news provider that nobody wants to read.

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  7. mavxp (494 comments) says:

    It is the same model as the BBC has with TV licence fee in the UK. I am not sure that ITV gets any share of that fee or Sky for their free to air news channel either.

    A smarter thing would be for “quality” newspapers to all go pay-per-view, and team up with the big online internet providers at the change-over offering free 3-month subscriptions. Headline and first paragraph free, the rest for a small fee or subscriber only. Internet service providers could include some subscriptions as part of a package deal to entice you to subscribe with say BT, Vodafone, Orange etc. as marketing.

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  8. Dave Guerin (32 comments) says:

    There was a similar proposal on RNZ recently, with an American guest pointing out that the US Postal Service gave discounted home delivery of newspapers and magazines in the early days, thereby supporting a diverse news media. I’m not saying it should be done, just that there is some precedent under previous content delivery models.

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  9. RRM (9,662 comments) says:

    The right wing birds are chirping about how we have a left-wing news media; and the left wing birds are chirping about how we have a right-wing media. That’s how I know all’s right with the world.

    The birds are a-singing to welcome the day. Hey, ho! Come to the fair!

    No subsidies / taxes to fund private news media enterprises, please.

    More than half the articles I read on my Stuff App contain spelling and grammatical errors, and some of them are even written in the most appallingly informal, conversational style. It’s not a creative writing exercise, kids! Just the facts, please.

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  10. wreck1080 (3,807 comments) says:

    Ha ha , why not add an extra 2.00 to pay the music companies for piracy too — when does the nonsense stop?

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  11. Redbaiter (8,022 comments) says:

    “I say no to Internet taxes!”

    How about saying no to yet another proposal for legislative theft?

    This is how the left work.

    Nominate a source for the theft, and then elect some cowardly leftist lacky to parliament to do their stealing for them.

    This is no “levy”.

    This is theft, and of course that these scum have even the nerve to propose such a batantly immoral act helps us to understand why the ambition of the left is an amoral society.

    Such a society allows proposals like this to be given credibility, when they are really merely due contempt and derision and condemnation.

    I spit on the Guardian, I spit on David Leigh, and I spit on all who support this proposal for stealing.

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  12. Phil (126 comments) says:

    Me, I look forward to the demise of the last newspaper, when they finally get that the model is broken, we dont accept shit news from biased greedy tossers and their hidden agendas.

    And what would become of Kiwiblog & co in that world?

    Keep in mind that the New York Times spends $37m annually to keep journalists in Iraq covering the war. Add in the other newspapers and TV networks and you’re looking at upwards of half a billion dollars a year to cover the war – and that’s just one war, in one country.

    David Farrah, Arianna Huffington, Lynn Prentice, and Danyl McLaughlin don’t have that kind of money sitting around to generate news content, and the model of blogging is still, by and large, parasitic on ‘traditional’ media sources.

    Is a levy on broadband the way to go? Of course not – it’s absurd. But, the wider IT industry should have some input and contribution to make in figuring out exactly how this is all going to play out, without reducing the quality of end-user experience.

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  13. chris (589 comments) says:

    and redistributed automatically to “news providers”

    I agree it’s a stupid idea, but if it were implemented then who gets to be classified as a news provider?

    What I find interesting is that it only appears to be the old school newspapers who are having trouble making money online. There are plenty of very large niche news websites (e.g. TechCrunch, ArsTechnica to name a couple of tech ones) that make plenty of money no problem at all, thank you very much.

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  14. Ross12 (1,276 comments) says:

    The Guardian must in a worse state than I thought. As said above they are in the same boat as Fairfax. The Guardian only survives because of the family trust that is backing it ( Scott family , I think).
    The idiot Leigh has to admit or realise the newspapers have themselves to blame –first they put up their own online version for free , then they allowed the quality of journalism to fall through the floor and finally they have allowed journalists to effectively become activists for their pet issues.

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  15. trout (919 comments) says:

    There is an opportunity here and a solution to the woes of print media. Someone needs to contract to purchase print content and resell it at a low price. Apple, of course set the precedent by persuading the record companies to change their business model to sell volume at an affordable price (at a figure that is paid without a second thought). I personally am not persuaded to pay a subscription for a newspaper but I would pay, say, 20c to read one of a selection of newspapers on line. It may be that registration with distributor would be required to open an account and a deposit paid up front (as with Trade Me). Hiding newspapers behind paywalls (the Herald is nervously playing with the idea) is suicidal. And, yes, bloggers will continue to scavenge content.

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  16. tom hunter (4,565 comments) says:

    The Guardian only survives because of the family trust that is backing it ( Scott family , I think).

    You can add to that list the New York Times which, having seen it’s revenues, readership, subscription and share values fall through the floor, have remained alive only because of the backing of the richest man in the world, Mexican Carlos Slim.

    Were I the billionaire Koch Brothers I’d be tempted to do a deal with Slim behind the scenes to buy his stake in the NYT – just to watch heads explode.

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  17. jgw739 (22 comments) says:

    Who decides who is a ‘news provider’?? If I start a blog does that count? My facebook page could be considered ‘news’ if I ever posted anything and if anyone cared to read it. I suppose we will need another govt. dept. to analyse the news to make sure it is worthy of an allocation from the new levy. But of course, with the usual efficiency of governments, the cost of running the thing will be greater than the income generated and the levy will have to be increased, probably before the ink is dry on the documents. And somehow it won’t be the governments fault.

    What a load of bullsh!t.

    Blanket billing all internet users for online news is a crock – it would be like charging a levy on your phone so telemarketers can survive. Just because I have a phone it doesn’t mean I want to pay for unsolicited crap.

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  18. georgebolwing (685 comments) says:

    One of the ironies of this call is that the rise of the newspaper through history has been on the back of the adoption of new technologies: movable type, the telegraph, photography have all been used to great effect by this industry to increase the quality and reduce the production cost of their product. More recently, they have embraced computer-based production techniques that have also greatly changed how stories are written and printed.

    But, like many once innovative industries, they have not been able to adapt – at least yet – to a fundamental shift in the economics of their business. The rise of the internet, combined with the rise of the handle-held devise, means that people no longer need newspapers to gather and distribute the news for them: there is a massive dis-intermediation going on in news gather. Combine with this, there is also a massive dis-intermediation going on in traditional sources of advertising revenue: Trademe has replaced the classifieds as a way of connecting buyers to sellers.

    Unfortunately, this in not the first, nor will it be the last, attempted by an industry made unprofitable by technology seeking to use other people’s money to maintain them.

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  19. jgw739 (22 comments) says:

    @ Phil 1:14pm

    ‘Keep in mind that the New York Times spends $37m annually to keep journalists in Iraq covering the war. Add in the other newspapers and TV networks and you’re looking at upwards of half a billion dollars a year to cover the war – and that’s just one war, in one country’

    Oh no! People might have to go back to minding thier own bloody business =)

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  20. tom hunter (4,565 comments) says:

    Oh FFS –

    , having seen it’s its revenues, …

    its …. ITS

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  21. Redbaiter (8,022 comments) says:

    “the wider IT industry should have some input and contribution to make in figuring out exactly how this is all going to play out, without reducing the quality of end-user experience.”

    Heard about investing your own money, or listing on the stock exchange? That’s what business people do. Communists steal money by means of legislation.

    As for your reporting on the Iraq war, bad example.

    It was so treasonous and so dishonest and so slanted, I’d gladly have done without it.

    Get this Phil.

    Since they’ve mostly over the last few decades morphed into Pravda style propaganda organs of the socialist state, I need newspapers like I need a hole in the head.

    Fuck em. They’re going broke because they choose to push left wing ideology down their reader’s throats rather than provide objective reporting.

    This is what I’m talking about.

    Newspapers can all go broke and fuck off right out of my life and I will be far better for it. They are 95% staffed by lying far left statist scum and I just do not need their unending unmitigated commie bullshit.

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  22. wtfunz (133 comments) says:

    Ha!!!
    The Gaurdian must have been studying the Maori claims for everything in New Zealand where everyone pays Maori to exist.
    They must have figured if the Kiwi’s are dumb enough to let it happen – why not try it here. Didn’t know the News Papers owned the internet and it connections though.

    Can someone tell me why the Newspapers don’t just close down their sites? Forcing people back to print.
    My thinking is more and more people will realise they don’t need the crap these idiots fob off on them, that they think qualifies as news!

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  23. Sonny Blount (1,847 comments) says:

    trout,

    Its been going on for years, there a thousands of subscriptions available to newspapers, blogs, and magazines available in the Amazon Kindle store. I get the National Review everyday at the cost of a couple of dollars a month.

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  24. RRM (9,662 comments) says:

    “I need newspapers like I need a hole in the head…”

    But Weddy… whatever would you find to write about, if the MSM weren’t daily horrifying you with either their own treachery & corruption, or the political left’s? :-)

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  25. F E Smith (3,315 comments) says:

    The right wing birds are chirping about how we have a left-wing news media; and the left wing birds are chirping about how we have a right-wing media.

    RRM, are you suggesting that the Grauniad is anything other than left wing?

    Ross12 & Tom H,

    It is the family trust that keeps the Guardian alive, given the fact that it is just hemorrhaging money and has a rapidly declining readership (woohoo!).  The Guardian Media Group owns, from memory, Motor Trader, which is extremely profitable and is used to keep the newspaper afloat.

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  26. slijmbal (1,223 comments) says:

    I liked the very curt but apropos comment on the grundiad web site

    “A £2-a-month levy on automobiles could save our horse and cart business.”

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  27. my 2 cents (1,091 comments) says:

    Yet another reason to take the vote away from Labour voters for 10yrs.

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  28. KiwiGreg (3,221 comments) says:

    Surely with your passion for taxing your fellow citizens to provide you with media you like you should be in favour of a state owned newspaper.

    Given National have only ever nationalised businesses in their current terms in office and not sold a one it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

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  29. DJP6-25 (1,310 comments) says:

    Well, I guess nobody expected a market based solution from the Guardian.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  30. tristanb (1,133 comments) says:

    We fund shitty TV shows with taxpayer money, that is no less despicable.

    And Labour are already thinking about an internet levy:
    “Labour will also investigate the viability of a small copyright levy on Internet access… …Funds raised could go to content creators through an arms length collecting and distribution arrangement.”
    http://blog.labour.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/ICT-policy.pdf

    So basically National is happy paying Mrs Ridge and the GCs a salary, along with self-promoting dickheads like Rhys Darby, spoilt talentless brats like Annabel Faye, and fuckwit ****s like P Money. And Labour want to charge everyone using the internet to give money back to a small group of already spoilt musicians.

    Fuck them all.

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  31. BigFish (132 comments) says:

    Don’t see any reason to support uncompetitive monopolies by levying their newer competitors.
    Nothing worse than disconnecting demand and merit from reward.

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  32. LiberalismIsASin (288 comments) says:

    Judging by the comments responding to the story on the guardians website there is not much support for the idea.

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  33. Tom Jackson (2,519 comments) says:

    “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.”

    It will happen, although I suspect that the tax will be a lot less than that. It’s a small price to pay to ensure people have an incentive to create content in an era where the Internet has caused market failures. If the payouts are loosely tied to views/downloads it will be less problematic.

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