Can a 'New Deal' Strengthen Journalism’s Civic Functions?

17 Jun 2021

The Forum on Information and Democracy has published its recommendations to alleviate the fragility of global journalism, in a report led by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. The group is calling for a new pact for the profession and a plan to secure 0.1% of the world's annual GDP for journalism, with the aim of guaranteeing its social function.

STI Experts

A 'new deal' for journalism. That is what the Information and Democracy Forum called for in a recent report. "The time has come for a 'new deal' for journalism, a great commitment on a national and international scale to promote journalism worthy of the name, public interest journalism and quality journalism: free, independent and reliable," said the forum's president, Christopher Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

This 'new deal', in Deloire's words, must involve the reconstruction of journalism "not as a 'media sector', but rather as an essential element of freedom of opinion and expression," requiring the combined efforts of governments, regulators, industry, investors, financiers, technology and civil society. "This effort should facilitate the exercise of journalistic freedom and responsibility. Its purpose is to strengthen its social function," he added.

For the forum president, an economic investment must accompany this effort. The report estimates that allocating 0.1% of annual global GDP to the journalism sector over the next ten years would guarantee its viability and thus protect its social contributions. "If this is part of what democracy costs, and it is, 0.1% of annual GDP is not too high a price to pay," said Deloire.

STI expert and director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, led the report. He argues that journalism is necessary for democracy, and that states would do well to protect and promote it. "Although journalism is imperfect and sometimes problematic, years of research have documented how professional and independent journalism helps people stay informed, participate in political processes and engage with their local communities, just as it can help hold power accountable and reduce corruption and embezzlement in both the public and private sectors," he affirmed.

Because of this, he further claimed, "if governments want to do more than talk about the value of journalism and, in fact, help journalists and media that are at the forefront to forge new paths for the profession and industry, they must step forward and take real action." The report offers recommendations to governments and media companies with the aim of protecting and promoting the profession and its social function.

 Some of the recommendations are:

  1. Ensure full transparency of media ownership as part of a broader framework of transparency, anti-corruption and financial integrity measures.
  2. Implement initiatives that distinguish and restore a comparative advantage to quality journalism, such as the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), in order to restore trust among all actors.
  3. Support and adopt international tax measures for digital platforms, such as the global minimum tax on companies proposed by the OECD.
  4. Develop hybrid media financing, so that philanthropy and public support are combined through mixed public-private funding instruments, whether the media is for profit or not.
  5. Ensure that States, in their budgets, substantially increase the public development aid allocated to public interest journalism, in order to reach one billion dollars a year.
  6. Establish support mechanisms that allow citizens to support the media of their choice (press checks, tax exemptions for subscriptions or allocation on income tax returns).
  7. Encourage reflection on the impact of artificial intelligence in journalism by including the media as sectors of strategic importance in national roadmaps on the subject.

The Forum on Information and Democracy, founded in 2020, consists of the Digital Rights Foundation, Reporters without Borders (RSF), Observacom, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the Center for Human Rights at the University of Berkeley, the Open Government Partnership, the Center for International Governance Innovation, the Peace Research Institute Oslo, the Research ICT Africa, Civicus, and Free Press Unlimited.

You can find the full report in this link.