Jeremy Corbyn raises idea of Internet Service Providers paying digital licence fee
The topic of fake news is never far from headlines these days, but those who remember the days of almost every home having a paper delivered will recall the fantastical headlines and stories that used to grace the breakfast table, what we believe that the wide spread availability of broadband has done is make it easier for this style of journalism to grow i.e. in years gone by you would pick up a newspaper at a neighbours house to read the headline you simply cannot believe is true but today we will simply click on a social media article or visit a website to do the same but online advertising means outlets see a benefit.
Jeremy Corbyn has stepped into the debate on fake news, the collapse of lots of the local journalism and how what we see in media has become increasingly controlled by a few people with their own financial interest as the driver rather than informing the public. In theory the rise of the Internet and broadband access was meant to lead to a rise in the amount of citizen lead journalism but this does not seem to be case, as all too often topics are too narrow to sustain the time it takes to produce good content and are lost underneath the less useful content.
In his speech at the Alternative MacTaggart lecture Mr Corbyn made a number of proposals, the full content of what the speech contained is of course online.
If we want an independent BBC, we should consider setting it free by placing it on a permanent statutory footing, with a new independent body setting the licence fee.
The licence fee itself is another potential area for modernisation. Originally, it was charged on radio sets. Then, as the technology developed, it became a radio and TV licence fee and finally just the TV licence fee.
In the digital age, we should consider whether a digital licence fee could be a fairer and more effective way to fund the BBC.
A digital licence fee, supplementing the existing licence fee, collected from tech giants and Internet Service Providers, which extract huge wealth from our shared digital space, could allow a democratised and more plural BBC to compete far more effectively with the private multinational digital giants like Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook. This could also help reduce the cost of the licence fee for poorer households.
So, one of the more ambitious ideas I’ve heard is to set up a publicly owned British Digital Corporation as a sister organisation to the BBC. The idea was floated by James Harding, former BBC Director of Home News in the Hugh Cudlipp lecture earlier this year.
A BDC could use all of our best minds, the latest technology and our existing public assets not only to deliver information and entertainment to rival Netflix and Amazon but also to harness data for the public good.
A BDC could develop new technology for online decision making and audience-led commissioning of programmes and even a public social media platform with real privacy and public control over the data that is making Facebook and others so rich.Extracts from speed by Jeremy Corbyn at the Alternative MacTaggart lecture
The notion of effectively taxing the largest tech giants to help fund a return to old school local media, rather than the situation today where many local newspaper websites are overloaded with advertising and all too often revolve around copy and paste press releases with one or two figures changing to reflect that region/city/town is clearly going to be appealing, but this does seem to link to investigations into how much tax operations such as Amazon pay and a much wider need to revisit how taxes are raised in a digital world.
Today’s call by the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to impose a levy on Internet Service Providers to help fund a ‘digital licence fee’ runs the risk of undermining broadband investment and could lead to increased prices for all consumers. ISPA members are currently investing billions to help deliver the next generation broadband infrastructure and services that are essential to the UK’s economy and society – a digital levy could divert resources away from this investment and slow down broadband rollout. We note that this is a draft policy idea for discussion, so it is important to consider at this early stage the impact of imposing a levy on ISPs who are delivering what the Labour Digital team calls a “critical national infrastructure priority.ISPA statement
The response from ISPA highlights an issue, with the speech including Internet Service Providers in the levy, the levy while with noble aims has the potential to undermine progress made in the last couple of years in getting broadband operators to start rolling out full fibre broadband in competition with each other. The reality for many broadband providers is that those investing in physical infrastructure are often not the ones to actually enjoy the economic benefits, i.e. a decent broadband connection has a lot more impact to the economy than it does in terms of profit for an operator.
Ultimately all companies that exist to generate a profit will pass on any levy, in exactly the same way that the majority of products and services pass on any changes in Value Added Tax (VAT). So while there is the carrot of the BBC licence fee reducing for some they may find that this is balanced out by the cost of their Netflix and Amazon Prime increasing.
The biggest problem today, is that those with the money and interest to do so can easily buy a position online that will guarantee lots of eyeballs and the speed with which thoughts can be shared with millions means that the moment of pause common with traditional media is gone, or put another way, clickbait attracts clicks obviously and those who are good at saying things that tap in to peoples own unfiltered thoughts will succeed where as those who take time to study and explore the various sides will receive a lot less exposure.
A final thought illustrating how broken the media is in the UK, years ago you would sometimes get paid for sharing expert opinion or creating specific content for an outlet, then it moved to you not being paid but happy to do it thus ensuring exposure but now we get outlets chasing us for expert opinion and content but they also want us to pay, begging the question that when we and others say no who is saying yes and paying.