A broadband levy to support newspapers? In your dreams…

David Leigh, the Guardian’s investigations executive editor, has put forward a rather contentious proposal – newspapers are losing business, it’s all the Internet’s fault, so there should be a £2 per month levy on broadband connections to support the industry.

As you can imagine, some comments were a tad terse and pretty much all were negative – there are a couple of mine, including a shorter and, sadly, rather ill-written, version of this.

It is, whichever way you look at it, a mind-numbingly stupid and self-serving suggestion – and where would it stop? Should I pay a levy to bakers because I make my own bread, perhaps? Or to bus companies because I use taxis? It makes as much – or as little – sense. Once this principle is established, the ramifications are limitless.

Leigh says, among much else, “There are very few people in the trade who are prepared to bet that all our daily papers will still be publishing newsprint copies in five years’ time.”

Are we to assume from this that all Guardian readers** will have broadband and get all their news online? It’s unlikely.

**In which, for the sake of argument, let’s include all the “quality” end of the market.

Even though I had online access, I bought the print version of the Guardian for many years, until I became increasingly housebound and also increasingly reluctant to pay for a huge amount of paper, most of which I didn’t read or even want (a week’s worth of Guardians, plus the Observer, on Sunday, is currently £10.60 – that’s too much when most of it is unread). I’m pretty sure many other former readers feel the same.

And, of course, many people neither have, nor do they want, access to the Internet, but still don’t buy papers. Are you going to tax them for failure to support your industry, Mr. Leigh?

I also know of people – more than you might think – who find stumping up for a daily Guardian and a Sunday Obs just too expensive (most people I know are sick and disabled, and on benefits, or pensioners, or, like me, both), and get their news from radio and TV – it’s not JUST the Internet that’s killing off newspapers – my TV gives me access to English-language news feeds from around the world (during last year’s riots, as well as the Japanese tsunami, I got excellent coverage from Al Jazeera). You want to tax that, too?

Newspapers – and magazines – have a lot of problems, and they can’t all be laid at the Internet’s door.

Cost is a major factor, especially with magazines. Many mags cost close to a fiver these days – a paperback, out of which I’ll get considerably more mileage and probably more pleasure, is more cost-effective. Considering how few people I see looking at the magazines in Sainsbury’s, and even fewer buying, there’s a lot of consumer resistance.

I used to buy a huge number of magazines; now I buy books instead (print and Kindle). So what to do? Tax books for taking away trade from mags? Ebooks are already taxed.

This taxation proposal is Luddism writ large – you can’t hack it, so the perceived opposition has to pay. Pity The Internet isn’t the only opposition, then, isn’t it?

Rather destroys the argument.

Press barons, not too many years ago, told the print unions “Adapt or die!”

Seems they don’t like it when the boot’s on the other foot…

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12 thoughts on “A broadband levy to support newspapers? In your dreams…

  1. well i bet i can count on both hands (8 fingers 2 thumbs only) the number of newspapers i’ve bought over my lifetime. i’ve never been able to afford )nor wanted) to buy newspapers. just the odd one now and again. with a few years in between each one. i rarely watch tv news either. far too graphic for my liking, especially the eastern countries and what goes on there in recent years. i find it can be too distressing and leaves indelible pictures in my mind. so answer is dont watch it.
    as for computers, i know a few older people who dont have one, and actually think they are evil machines causing lots of unhappiness. they hate mobile phones too. or anything else they dont understand.but…. if IDS has his way, everyone must have one cos if they need to claim benefits hes trying to bring it in that they will have to be claimed over the internet. no thought to how they will be paid for and by whom. some schools insist their pupils have access to a pc at home. a young boy and his single mum ,think he was 14 at the time were made to feel embarrassed by his school headmistress cos his mum hadnt been able to afford a pc for her son to do his homework on.no help to get one. dss called them luxuries.yet she was forced to find one from somewhere for him. so all the newspaper bosses are talking a load of dung.if they cant afford pcs they cant afford newspapers.

    • Apparently IDS and his equally lunatic playmate Freud think you can use Google’s Internet glasses to fill in forms online – I suspect Freud thinks they work by magic. IDS doesn’t think. Ever.

      The pair of them are as technologically illiterate as a six year old kid. The glasses are intended to present location information while you’re out and about – not much help for form-filling – and probably cost more than a computer.

      When – if? – universal credit kicks in, anyone who is not technically up to speed is going to be at massive risk – at any time I can see 6 or 8 wi-fi connections on my computer and phone – about half of which have zero security.

      • hadnt thought of that aspect of it all. was more interested in the financial aspects.costs of a computer and its periferals plus cost of running them all in broadband fees, maintainance, inks .,printer paper etc and lack of cash to pay for them, plus having to learn how to….do this or whatever. all on little or no pay…just to look for jobs that arent there in the first place.

        • Actually, basic computers are pretty cheap, as is broadband – though that’s no help if you have no money anyway. The big problem is that many people don’t have computers because they don’t have the mindset needed to use one effectively (or they simply don’t want one).

          Guy I know would complain that I had an unfair advantage as I had a brain for computers, whereas I countered by saying the difference was that I had an open mind and was prepared to learn. I think we were both right – there is a computer-friendly mindset, but you still need to be prepared to learn, and not stop learning. For some that might never happen because computers simply make no sense to them.

          • or they close their minds to accepting them as a neccessary evil in modern day life.because the cant cope with change. though ive met 80 year olds on chat rooms that put 16year olds to shame. one taught me basic html. as well as making webpages and building simple websites. but i am definitely with you on the learning thing.

            • Oh yeah, a lot of old codgers have been around since the earliest days of PCs when you had to be able to write code. The good ones embrace change, the numpties still bemoan the loss of MS-DOS! ;)

              In my building about 10 years ago, they installed a communal PC with a broadband connection. I produced a sheet with IE on it, with every function labelled as to what it did and why, and offered to teach anyone who was interested (one of my informal jobs here, whenever we get new equipment, is to deconstruct the manual and reduce it to a single sheet of simple instructions).

              Nobody was remotely interested, so one day head office sent over one of their IT people – the last person anyone new to computers needs to see, because they will never tell you anything useful (it case you know as much s them!).

              Anyway, I said We’ve a lot of old people here, with widely differing degrees of functionality, they’re all going to need guest accounts and one thing you can be sure of is that passwords will be forgotten – what happens then?

              Oh, we’ll send someone over from Liverpool!

              Why not appoint a local administrator, because you could be here half a dozen times a day?

              Mumble – security – mumble . . .

              At that point I walked away – some people you just can’t help. To the best of my knowledge the machine has never been used, it just sits there gathering dust and the broadband service has long been disconnected.

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