Google and Facebook should pay taxes for the advertising revenue they earn from using content produced by Taiwanese news outlets, media experts told an online news conference yesterday.
The government should also investigate if news media have bargained on unequal terms with these large international platforms, they said, adding that it should ask them to offer a reasonable amount of funding to support the creation of quality news content.
Google and Facebook collect about 80 percent of Taiwan’s digital advertising revenue, causing local media outlets to lose more revenue than their counterparts in other countries, National Chengchi University journalism professor Feng Chien-san (馮建三) said, adding that funding available to news departments across the nation has been reduced.
Fewer people want to be journalists due to low salaries, he said.
“Taiwan has the freest environment for news media in Asia, but it cannot develop further due to a lack of resources. As such, we have seen a weakening democratic functioning of the news media and less supervision of the powerful and the mighty,” Feng said.
While governments in other countries have utilized administrative, judicial and legislative means to make the two tech giants pay for using news content, Feng said that a better solution would be to impose a tax on advertising revenue they have collected in Taiwan.
In addition to a corporate tax, some countries levy an additional tax on ad revenue, he said.
Sweden since the 1970s has used advertising tax revenue to support the development of the news media, while the Netherlands and South Korea have allocated part of the broadcast media’s advertising revenue to fund the news media, he said.
Taiwan could become the first country to impose an advertising tax from these cross-national platforms, Feng said.
Google is able to access a complete set of user data through its Ad Manager system, but the data are not available to news publishers, National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Journalism professor Lin Chao-chen (林照真) said.
“Under the cost per thousand rule, news media in Taiwan can only earn NT$5 to NT$10 per thousand page views, and the price is far less than those in other countries,” she said.
In addition, publishers receive only 68 percent of advertising revenue for displaying ads with Google AdSense for content, while their share of revenue drops to 51 percent for using AdSense for search, Lin said.
However, Google also requires publishers to pay 20 percent of its advertising revenue to media agents, making it the largest beneficiary of digital advertising revenue, she said.
Facebook, on the other hand, creates advertising revenue through its “instant article” mechanism, making it possible to display advertisements at a faster pace, she said.
Advertisements are displayed while viewers read the news on Facebook, but Facebook is not required to pay to use the content, Lin said.
“Facebook does not generate content, but it reaps profits from selling ads through content. News publishers know neither the number of ads sold by Facebook through its content nor the aggregate advertising revenue. The platform reveals none of that information. It can easily change the algorithm to alter data traffic,” she said.
The two large platforms decide through big data and algorithms what the public sees in the digital era, and people need to realize that content is not generated by platforms themselves, National Taiwan Normal University Graduate Institute of Mass Communication professor Chen Ping-hung (陳炳宏) said.
Experts also suggested that the government pay attention to legislation on “neighboring rights” in Germany and France, as it can require platform operators to negotiate with and pay news media before they can use news media’s content.
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