NUJ calls on Chancellor to use his budget to shore up UK journalism

  • 25 Feb 2021

In a week when Facebook squared up to a nation state and its government blinked first, the NUJ is calling on the Chancellor to act robustly in next week’s Budget to acknowledge the vital role played by journalism in our society, and to usher in a package of measures to revitalise an ailing sector that underpins democracy.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares his budget

© Simon Walker/HM Treasury

The NUJ is calling for a levy of tech giants to create a sustainable fund that can inject much-needed investment that is targeted at grassroots journalism and news and ensure greater diversity, plurality and new jobs in journalism. Untransparent private deals with cherry-picked media outlets is not a solution to the industry's wider challenges.

The NUJ joined up with journalists' unions across the US, Australia and Canada this week to condemn the bullying action of Facebook and to call on governments around the world to show real leadership in protecting the public's right to information.

The NUJ calls on the Chancellor to use his budget to:

  • Levy tech giants to fund an economic stimulus plan for news outlets.
  • Launch a package of tax credits – including Jobs for Journalists; support for local advertisers; tax credits for individuals taking out print and digital news subscriptions.
  • Reform freelance rights – equalise employment rights for workers.
  • Level up support for the self-employed and retain the level of the SEISS grant to at least £2500 per month.
  • End gaps in provision for freelances and the self-employed.
  • Fund a national media literacy initiative as part of a plan to tackle disinformation and fake news.
  • Fund a Journalism Foundation to promote innovative media start-ups and public interest journalism.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"This week should be a wake-up call for governments around the world to realise that unaccountable tech giants cannot be allowed to wield enormous power or indulge in bullying tactics that undermine our democracies. Alongside our sister unions, the NUJ believes a better alternative must be found – one that acknowledges the vital role that properly resourced journalism plays in our society, and ensures that it can sustain and flourish.
"A more joined-up solution that ensures the tech giants pay for the news content they profit from, through a mechanism that directly funds public interest journalism in the most diverse way, would be a way of addressing the crisis facing journalism around the globe. The NUJ's News Recovery Plan, launched last April, provides a roadmap that makes clear the range of measures that could reinvigorate the news industry and ensure it is firmly rooted in the public good."

The NewsGuild-CWA and National Writers Union in the USA, CWA Canada – the Media Union and UNIFOR in Canada, and MEAA in Australia joined with the NUJ (UK & Ireland) in issuing the statement.

It called for bigger, bolder steps to create monies that can "build and sustain a genuinely public-interest media that supports, among others, community, not-for-profit and local media. Such funds should not be used to fund more mergers and acquisitions or reward shareholders but to pay journalists a fair share of the profits made from their work, to retain professional journalists' jobs, to save public-interest media, to build new and more diverse voices".

It added: "Facebook and Google are guilty of excessive profiteering. It is time not only to make them pay a fair share for the content they use but to level the playing field. If your local newspaper or local radio station has to pay tax why are Facebook and Google allowed to avoid and evade their social responsibilities?

"If governments were to tax their revenues or their profits, an independent fund could use those revenues to support a news recovery plan, saving jobs, sustaining media, supporting new voices. We could not only retain jobs but build and sustain new media and voices, assuring more diversity, more quality information and more jobs. The receipt of any funds must be strictly conditioned on investing in journalism.

"Journalism should not just be a business – nor can it just rely on charity, philanthropy or the crumbs from the tech giants' table. The pandemic has proved it must serve above all the public interest. We need to secure, support and sustain public-interest journalism on radio and television, in print and across digital platforms.

"Governments around the world need to take urgent steps to protect and sustain news and information. The use of tax and fiscal policy, public advertising campaigns, job retention subsidies and other measures are all vital to tackling the economic crisis facing media.”


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