Conference Participants Adopt Principles on Fair Compensation for Journalism by Big Tech Companies

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Participants at the ”Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future in the Global South” conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa, have adopted a framework for negotiations between registered news businesses and big tech companies like Google, Meta, Twitter and others, that seeks for fair compensation for publishers across the globe

Featured panel discussions and series of keynotes by distinguished speakers that focused on Africa, Australia, Latin America, and Asia, the conference culminated in the adoption of the framework titled ‘Big Tech and Journalism – Principles for Fair Compensation’. The framework is intended to help in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policy mechanisms that oblige digital platforms and news publishers to engage with each other to develop fair economic terms.

Held at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 24, 2023, over 50 conference participants and organisations from 20 countries, with support from leading journalists, media organisations, scholars, publisher groups, activists and economists, endorsed the principles.

The participants proposed overarching principles that should apply in a wide range of contexts, including between platforms and publishers rather than set detailed expectations for different mechanisms.

The framework provides, among other things, that mechanisms should support and invest in public interest journalism, that is, news and information produced to professional journalistic standards which informs the public about matters that are relevant to their rights and responsibilities as citizens; support plurality in the platform and publishing markets, in particular, have a net positive impact on the plurality of publishers in a market; support diversity in the news publishing market and should have a net positive impact on the range of content, voices and languages represented in the news market, including the voices of historically under-represented and marginalised groups; and support sustainability in the news publishing market, for individual publishers and the sector as a whole, by ensuring they receive fair compensation for the use of their intellectual property and content.

The framework makes the case that mechanisms should ensure that terms of engagement between platforms and publishers are consistent across a market, and do not allow individual platforms or publishers to strike preferential arrangements; that small and medium-sized publishers should be allowed to coordinate their efforts, which may include collective bargaining with platforms; that the highest possible degree of transparency should be adopted for both the process by which policy interventions are designed and implemented as well as the outcomes obtained; and that mechanisms should not inhibit the freedom of publishers, through their journalism, to hold platforms accountable for their actions, or the freedom of platforms to criticise publishers, adding that the terms of engagement between them should be openly published to ensure that all parties can be held accountable and to build confidence with the public.

The framework also recommends that mechanisms should be overseen and enforced by bodies that are demonstrably independent of both the platform and publishing industries; and that mechanisms should be outcomes-oriented, with the principles of public interest, plurality, diversity, and sustainability of the media at their heart.

The conference was attended by organisations and individuals from all over the world who endorsed the principles. Among those who endorsed it are: Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria; Alexis Johann, Managing Partner, Fehr Advice & Partners AG, Zürich, Switzerland; Anton Harber, Director, Campaign for Free Expression, South Africa; Churchill Otieno, Executive Director, Eastern Africa Editors Society, and Chairman Africa Media Convention, Kenya; and Dr Courtney Radsch, fellow UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy and Director, Center for Journalism and Liberty, U.S.

Others who endorsed the principles are: Dr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, General Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigeria; Dr. Anya Schiffrin, Senior Lecturer of Practice, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, United States of America (U.S); Bruce Mutsvairo, Professor and UNESCO Chair on Disinformation, Data and Democracy, Utrecht University, Netherlands; and Camille Grenier, Operations Director, Forum on Information and Democracy, France.

Dr Chamil Wariya, Chairman, Malaysian Press Institute (MPI), Cyberjaya, Malaysia; BBC Media Action, United Kingdom; Digital Journalism Association (Ajor), Brazil; Campaign for Free Expression, South Africa; Eastern Africa Editors Society; and Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA), Argentina also endorsed the principles.

Please download the full text of Big Tech and Journalism: Principles for Fair Compensation.