A social media levy targeted at companies such as Google and Facebook could help fund public service journalism, it has been suggested this week.
Addressing journalists at the Society of Editors ‘Crisis in Our Courts’ seminar this week, former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP said that social media companies could do more to support quality journalism.
He said: “Google and Facebook are the biggest providers of news, yet they don’t employ a single reporter.
“They take content which is produced by journalists across the media, in broadcast, national print and the regional press.
“If that content is not produced, there is nothing for Google or Facebook to distribute.”
Referencing the BBC Local Journalism Partnership that will see the corporation pay for 150 local democracy reporters to cover local councils, Whittingdale said that this is something that Facebook and Google could also pay into which could be used to employ local journalists to cover courts.
He added: “I hope that they can see that it is very much in their interests to support this kind of initiative.
“But if we fail to persuade them, if the Government does bring in the social media levy, then I think that this is an area where the proceeds of that could be used.”
The event, held at the offices of the Telegraph in London and supported by Cision also heard from former Lord Chief Justice Lord Igor Judge, Tristan Kirk, Courts Correspondent at the London Evening Standard, Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors and Ed Owen, Head of Communications at HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).
Owen told delegates that HMCTS that the service was dedicated to ‘building better relationships’ between court officials and the media and that a working group had been launched to promote press access to courts. Current reforms in the courts would not put transparency at risk he assured those in attendance.
He said: “The Courts and Tribunal Service is committed to ensuring current court reforms are rooted in promoting openness and transparency. We do recognise that there is a need to promote and enhance media access and guidance for court officials on the rights of journalists to report from court.”
Evening Standard courts correspondent Tristan Kirk lent his support for better guidance for court officials as to the role of the media.
He said: “The Ministry of Justice could consider a regular guidance to court staff, to tell them that the press is an essential part of open justice. That open justice is not just a mantra to be said but something that needs to be actioned.
“The staff need to have the proper training, the proper instructions, to know how to deal with that.”
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