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Corbyn ‘needs better ideas than tech tax to fund journalism'

The UK's technology trade association responded after the Labour leader proposed a windfall tax to create a fund for public interest journalism.

Jeremy Corbyn needs “better ideas” than a windfall tax on tech firms to fund journalism, the UK’s technology trade association has said.

The Labour leader outlined proposals for an independent fund for public interest journalism paid for by tech giants, which could include Google, Facebook and Amazon, in a speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Citing a settlement made between Google and news publishers in France and Belgium, Mr Corbyn said he would like to do something similar in the UK “but on a more ambitious scale”.

Google
Google would be likely to be taxed under the proposal (Yui Mok/PA)

If that is not possible the option of a windfall tax on the companies should be looked at, he added.

Many tech giants have proved resourceful when it comes to minimising the tax they pay.

Earlier this month it was revealed Amazon UK’s corporate tax bill fell by £2.8 million last year despite the company seeing pre-tax profits nearly treble.

Antony Walker, deputy chief executive at techUK, which represents more than 950 technology companies, dismissed the idea of a tax and said many of the tech giants are already contributing to the Cairncross Review of press sustainability in the UK.

He said: “It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that high-quality independent journalism continues to thrive and that digital platforms support a healthy and informed public debate.

“Many tech companies are already working hard to address the misuse of platforms to seed disinformation. Tech firms are also working with traditional news media organisations to help them transform their develop business models for the digital age.

“It is good to see Mr Corbyn engaging on these issues, however we need better ideas than just another proposal to tax tech companies.

“The Cairncross Review has been set up explicitly to look into the future of high-quality journalism in the UK.

“Many techUK members are engaged in contributing detailed submissions to this review and we hope that Labour will engage constructively with the process.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society Of Editors, said: “The society welcomes any debate on the future of the media provided it’s done with an open mind and not a political agenda.

“The devil is always in the detail. In a liberal democracy where freedom of speech is so vital, it’s a delicate balancing trick to make sure the media is given the support it needs to flourish and that means looking at social media giants and that the BBC is funded.

“It’s very seldom that one size fits all. We would need the media industry in discussion with any future Labour government.”

The International Federation for Journalists praised the proposals, with general secretary Anthony Bellanger saying: “At a time when a few tech giants are reaping the financial rewards but paying little or no tax and independent journalism is being slowly strangled, we very much welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s bold plans to redress the balance and offer strong support to both public service media and local investigative and public interest journalism.

“Ideas on improving freedom of information laws, democratising public service media and finding new ways to fund journalism will be welcomed by journalists unions across the world.”

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