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The UK’s National Union of Journalists has announced a ‘news recovery plan’ which calls on a one-off windfall tax to aid the struggling print sector.

The key aim of the National Union of Journalists plan is to sustain the press and media through the Covid-19 crisis and reinvigorate the industry into a re-imagined future.

The journalists union explained that the present crisis has shown just how vital it is to have a news media providing accurate information, how desperate people are for trustworthy content and how essential it is that the government and authorities are held to account.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, has set out a bold set of measures and interventions, including the windfall tax, to support and protect jobs and quality journalism.

She said: “This is not and cannot be about the preservation of the status quo. The emergency intervention needed now can only be the first steps towards a news re-imagined. We need a triage plan of intervention and investment. That will involve action to stem the immediate damage being wrought, and longer-term measures to heal historic wounds.

“Our aim is to create a healthy diverse press, focused squarely on the public good, one that can be sustained now and into the future. That’s why we want governmental commitments to a range of actions – some immediate and some when the worst of this crisis is over – that will create a news industry firmly rooted in the public interest journalism which will deepen public engagement in our democratic structures.”

News Recovery Plan Short-Term Aims

• A windfall tax of 6 per cent on the tech giants, using the Digital Services Tax, towards funding a News Recovery Plan.
• Tax credits and interest free loans to support journalist jobs, for frontline reporters covering the Covid-19 crisis and recovery.
• No public money for firms making redundancies, cutting pay, giving executive bonuses or blocking trade union organisation.
• Strategic investment in government advertising, including the hyperlocal sector, involving central and local governments and public bodies.
• Further funding by NESTA’s Future News Fund of innovative, public interest journalism and a similar scheme in Ireland
• Free vouchers for online or print subscriptions to all 18-and-19-year olds and tax credits for households with subscriptions.

The IFJ, NUJ and sister unions are resisting moves to clamp down on journalistic access and authorities evading scrutiny. The plan adds that; “Aid packages for media are being introduced around the world, however a piecemeal approach will only go so far – the NUJ is calling for a global re-calibration of the media industry and renewed commitments to press freedom, spearheaded by the IFJ and other international partners.”

News Recovery Plan Medium-Term Aims

• Establishment of a government-funded Journalism Foundation – as recommended in the UK’s Cairncross Review – to invest in local news and innovative journalistic projects.
• Confer “asset of community value” status on local newspapers – like community pubs – ensuring that titles are preserved for potential community ownership.
• Tax breaks, rate relief and other financial support for local social enterprises and journalistic cooperatives taking over titles from major regional operators, running them as not-for-profit enterprises.
• Employee representation of 25 per cent on executive boards in receipt of public funding.
• Independent sustainable funding of public service broadcasting that protects its universality and prevents government interference.
• Nationwide media literacy strategy to tackle disinformation and fake news.
• Reform of media ownership rules, with a strengthened public interest test.
• Training that opens up access to journalism, including apprentices for school-leavers.
• Protection for whistleblowers and monitoring the potential impact of surveillance technologies being considered in response to Covid-19 challenge and easing of lockdowns.
• Support for a global framework to protect and promote journalism and improve press freedom.

Michelle Stanistreet concluded: “Journalists are not seeking handouts or compensation for the industry – we are looking for investment in our future to transform the media industry, make it fit for our collective purpose and truly serve the public good.”