Culture ministry supports charging online outlets to support news industry

  • By Hsu Tzu-ling and Liu Tzu-hsuan / Staff reporter, with staff writer

Minister of Culture Lee Yung-te (李永德) said on Friday that he supports charging digital news outlets to subsidize traditional media as newspaper profits have nearly halved in the past decade.

Lee made the remarks at a forum focusing on news media responsibility hosted by the National Taiwan University (NTU) Graduate Institute of Journalism.

A survey measuring the effect of digital media on the print industry was released at the meeting.

Photo: Reuters

The ministry-sponsored survey found that as the print market shrank, so did advertisement revenue and employment in the industry.

Digital platform operators such as Google and Line Today sent representatives to the forum, but the most high-profile player, Meta, was absent.

Participants included industry veterans, government representatives and academics, who exchanged views on how the news industry can cooperate with digital platforms.

National Chengchi University journalism professor Liu Chang-de (刘昌?) said that newspaper circulation in 2012 was double what was recorded last year.

Newspaper revenue in that period also halved as digital advertisements on print media Web sites did not compensate for losses in the print sector, he said.

By comparison, an estimated 60 to 80 percent of Taiwan’s digital advertisements originate on the world’s largest international digital platforms, Google and Facebook, the survey showed.

As the industry declined, about 25 percent of jobs were lost, it showed.

The survey interviewed several news organizations and found that reliance on Facebook algorithms or Google keyword rankings led news agencies to create provocative headlines or exaggerated content, a practise that contravenes traditional industry values.

The opaque mechanism of algorithms and revenue sharing leads digital platforms to skew news being offered to increase visibility, the report showed.

Media operators said in the survey that the means to maintain professional and financial independence were disappearing, hampering their ability to perform the role of “the fourth estate.”

Graduate Institute of Journalism director Hung Chen-ling proposed that digital platforms should be required to give value to the news industry through bargaining, royalty payments for linking to news content, special funds or taxation.

Hung called on the government to draft legislation to ensure maintenance of the news industry, with the Ministry of Digital Affairs being the oversight authority, adding that the industry needs to negotiate with digital platforms.

Google Taiwan senior manager for public and government affairs Anita Chen (Chen Youzhen), who joined the forum via a videoconference, said that Google has been creating a media environment to help news agencies digitalize, and would continue to talk with stakeholders to find solutions that are suitable to Taiwan’s media environment.

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