Labour wants FAANG tax to fund BBC


UK’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a tax on firms such as Facebook, Google and Netflix, to subsidise the BBC licence fee. He declared a “few tech giants and unaccountable billionaires will control huge swathes of our public space and debate” and that intervention is now required.

In a speech at the Edinburgh TV festival today he was due to:

  • Propose a “digital licence fee” to help fund the BBC, paid for by a tax on big tech businesses and broadband providers.
  • Suggest that licence fee-payers should elect representatives to the BBC’s governing board, potentially handing power to critics of its news output.
  • Advocate introducing charitable status for not-for-profit journalistic outfits, giving tax breaks to organisations.
  • Recommend an independent fund to subsidise public service journalism, paid for by the tech companies.
  • Require the BBC to publish equality data, including for social class, for all creators of its content, whether in-house or external.

Corbyn was set to criticise large tech companies that “extract huge wealth from our shared digital space”, describing them as “digital monopolies that profit from every search, share and like we make”.

He plans a new tax that could be used to provide a guaranteed income for the BBC and enable the national broadcaster “to compete far more effectively with the private multinational digital giants like Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook”.

The levy on tech companies would be introduced as part of a new legal arrangement with the BBC that would establish the broadcaster as a permanent organisation, meaning it would no longer be reliant on regular negotiations with the government.

An independent body would then be established to set an appropriate level for the licence fee, with discounts on the flat rate of £150.50 (€166) a year for poorer families.

Other radical proposals include allowing the British public and BBC staff to elect members of the BBC’s governing board, the organisation that is responsible for setting strategy and ensuring the corporation fulfils its mission and public purpose. Similar arrangements could then be made for control of regional parts of the BBC.

Licence fee-payers would then choose individuals to represent their interests on the board, providing potential candidates met certain qualifying criteria. Online voting could be possible using the BBC accounts used to log in to services such as iPlayer.

Corbyn will also raise the prospect of charitable status for organisations that pursue not-for-profit investigative journalism, in addition to a new fund which would subsidise news outlets using money from the tech companies.

“Google and news publishers in France and Belgium were able to agree a settlement,” Corbyn is expected to say. “If we can’t do something similar here but on a more ambitious scale, we’ll need to look at the option of a windfall tax on the digital monopolies to create a public interest media fund.”

The BBC declined to comment on Corbyn’s suggestions. Facebook and Google also declined to comment.


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