As the Covid-19 pandemic undermines journalism at a growing pace, the Forum on Information and Democracy is publishing its recommendations under the title A New Deal for Journalism. The report presents a plan to guarantee up to 0.1% of GDP a year into journalism to safeguard its social function for the future.

Launched in November 2020, the Forum’s working group on the sustainability of journalism has developed an ambitious framework for the future of journalism. Entitled A New Deal for Journalism, it consists of a series of recommendations aimed at guaranteeing up to 0.1% of GDP a year in favour of it, with an exacting vision of journalism. The creation of the working group was welcomed by the Alliance for Multiculturalism and the Media Freedom Coalition.         

The New Deal would be a massive commitment both at the national and the  international scale to ensure the social function of journalism. Christophe Deloire, chair of the Forum, explains: “The New Deal for Journalism consists of linking together various points that up to now have been separate, i.e. how the market is organised, the technological environment, and the work of journalists, with its working practices and ethics. This amounts to rebuilding journalism, not as the ‘media sector’, but as an essential element of freedom of opinion and expression, predicated on the right to information.”   

The working group’s steering committee is chaired by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and is composed of 17 international specialists. The report was written by a team of rapporteurs supervised by Sameer Padania, an expert on the information ecosystem. 

“Journalists and the public they serve do not need comforting speeches,” said Nielsen. “They need concrete decisions.” He added that the report’s recommendations “offer an opportunity to break with years of inaction”.

The report is structured around four fields of action: media freedom, the independence of journalism, a favourable economic climate and support for a sustainable digital model. Among the recommendations are:

  • Ensure full transparency of media ownership as part of broader measures on transparency, anti-corruption and financial integrity
  • Implement initiatives allowing quality journalism to be singled out and given a comparative advantage again, such as the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), to restore confidence among all stakeholders  
  • Support and adopt international measures for taxing digital platforms, such as the global minimum corporate tax rate proposed by the OECD 
  • Develop hybrid funding for the media, combining philanthropy and public support by establishing private-public blended financial instruments for commercial and non-profit media
  • Secure from governments a commitment to spending 1% of official development assistance on support for independent media and their enabling environment
  • Establish support mechanisms allowing citizens to support media organizations of their choice (such as media vouchers, tax relief on subscriptions, or income tax designations)
  • Structure the reflection on the impact of AI on journalism by including journalism and media as strategic sectors in national Artificial Intelligence strategies and roadmaps

The extent of the crisis hitting journalism and the consequences of society’s failure to cope with it make the New Deal worth considering. The report makes clear that this wide-ranging plan will achieve its goal through the combined efforts, over a decade or more, of governments, regulators, industry, investors, financial donors, technology and civil society. The report makes a case for guaranteeing up to 0.1% of GDP a year for journalism. Some countries already do so, and others are invited to make similar provisions.

In the spirit of the “3 Rs” of Roosevelt’s New Deal – relief, recovery and reform – such a collective effort by dozens of countries will allow funding for the journalism ecosystem damaged by the coronavirus crisis (relief), allow it to complete the transition to the digital era (recovery), and anticipate future changes of technology paradigms in the 21st century (reform).

The first Summit of the Initiative on Information and Democracy will be held in September 2021, in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. The initiative articulates the work of civil society and democratic governments. It aims to define and create a system of democratic guarantees in the communication and information space in the era of globalization and digitalization. In the face of information chaos, it allies a legal approach (production of a doctrine for the regulation of digital platforms) with a geopolitical approach (the establishment of a coalition of democratic governments in order to promote their principles).

The Forum on Information and Democracy, the instrument created to implement the International Partnership, was formed in November 2019 by 11 civil society organizations. In its first policy framework in November 2020 entitled How to end Infodemics, it published 250 specific recommendations on the transparency of platforms, moderation of content, regulation of private messaging services and reliability of information.