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Notes on The Guardian and a broadband levy for journalism

Last week David Leigh, investigation’s editor at a respected UK broadsheet, mused over a potential brainwave idea to help save the future of his industry once ‘total digitisation’ takes place. What followed was a negative response in the majority, with people branding the notion self-serving and self-important.
Put simply, The Guardian-man proposed a nominal donation (or tax) be paid by broadband providers towards a kind of ‘newspaper kitty’, which would then be divided amongst news titles to fund their online endeavours. How much a particular title received would be calculated on its readership- the bigger the audience the bigger the cut.
In many ways it’s not surprising Leigh managed to rile so many people up. This is, after all, a well-read national proposing that it’s in the common interest of most Britons to keep it alive in the light of falling sales figures and a business model that, capitalistically speaking, doesn’t make sense. It’s like an SME director approaching the bank for life-long funding with a 0% ROI because the product their company makes is no longer selling.
But then look a little closer and the concept might not be too far off the mark. Of course print journalism, and professional journalism in general isn’t the only arm of the media that’s faring pretty poorly right now. Music, theatrical film, and even TV are all struggling, though there is a key difference between how these latter examples can secure additional funding.
The likes of BT, SKY, and Virgin- interestingly all broadband and TV providers- does contribute to the producers of audio and video entertainment; this comes out of our monthly subscription as punters, with rights and assets of studios all paid for up front before any of the shows are streamed. Clearly it’s worth it, with sport (and sports comment), major U.S. series and Hollywood movies making for the key reasons to invest in a pay television package.
Meanwhile, Apple’s iTunes is the market leader, and worth a fortune to Team Mac, but it would be nowhere if it weren’t for contracts with all major labels, and the vast majority of worthwhile independents. As such why shouldn’t those responsible for providing access to news pay a little into that pot, just as newsagents once did on a wholesale basis? Certainly food for thought on a wet Tuesday afternoon, and far from the ‘ridiculous’ idea many of The Guardian’s regularly too-quick-to-comment readers seem to presume it is.

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