Independent publishers call for public support to tackle ‘unequal’ relationship with platforms

IMPRESS has today published its submission to the Cairncross Review into Press Sustainability. The Review was established to protect high-quality journalism from the threats posed by the digital economy.

The IMPRESS submission draws on a survey of IMPRESS members which found that:

  • 100% of IMPRESS members use social media platforms to publish their content and/or links to their content.
  • 96% do not receive any income from these platforms.
  • Only 8% believe that their financial arrangements with platforms are fair.

Comments from IMPRESS members included the following:

  • ‘The power is with the platform.’
  • ‘We struggle to keep up to date with changes to platforms that have a significant impact on our readership.’
  • ‘Social media gives us a platform but nothing else. It is an unequal relationship.’
  • ‘We are completely at the whim of opaque changes to algorithms with no direct contact with the platforms.’

When asked what could be done to support independent publishing, IMPRESS members’ comments included the following:

  • ‘We would support measures that would see a more equitable revenue share between social media platforms and content creators.’
  • ‘We feel that politicians could and should do more to make sure the provincial press not only continues to play an important role in our democratic society but can also do so without the increasing financial and legal obstacles.’
  • ‘Public funding for independent high-quality journalism, with a view to creating more media plurality.’
  •  ‘Subsidies would be helpful’.

Drawing on this feedback, IMPRESS has recommended that the Government should:

  • Launch a Digital Accountability Review to ensure that digital intermediaries such as social media platforms and search engines are operating in the public interest.
  • Ensure that media regulators are adequately funded to promote media literacy, so that news consumers can recognise high-quality journalism.
  • Establish a News Funding Council (NFC) to support the sustainability of high-quality journalism by making grants to publishers. The NFC should be operationally independent of Government and Parliament and should set its own strategic priorities.
  • Review the tax regime for news publishers to ensure that any tax benefits flow to the publishers of high-quality journalism and not to the publishers of low-quality journalism, misinformation or disinformation.
  • Create a new legal identity – ‘Public Interest News’ (PIN) – for the publishers of high-quality journalism. This identity would be distinct from charitable status, so that publishers could still publish political news and comment, but it would have some of the benefits of charitable status.

Jonathan Heawood, CEO of IMPRESS, said: ‘We are at a turning point for journalism in the UK. The digital revolution has allowed new publishers to enter the market, but they will struggle to grow without public support in the form of tax breaks, subsidies or donations. Our proposals are designed to support a vibrant news sector that can hold the powerful to account and represent the views of all sections of the UK public. In this way, we can turn the digital challenge into a fantastic opportunity for publishers, journalists and their audiences.’

Read the complete IMPRESS submission to the Cairncross Review.

  • In June 2018, IMPRESS conducted a survey of its members. 26 publishers responded to the survey – more than a third of IMPRESS total regulated publishers –, providing a unique and representative snapshot of the experiences and views of independent news publishers in the UK at this point in time.


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