Media around the world are suffering revenue losses and operational difficulties because of the large-scale posting of their news content on internet platforms. Some are now taking steps to address the issue. The passage in February of a law in Australia requiring social media platforms and search engines to pay news outlets for content has sparked considerable interest elsewhere in the West.
Hong Kong is an international business centre and a vibrant flow of information underpins its core competitiveness. Ensuring the city remains a news centre for information exchange between the East and the West is critical to not just the viability of the media industry but also the international status of Hong Kong.
As an industry organisation, The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong regards a healthy business environment as vital to maintaining journalistic standards. Achieving this objective hinges on the industry adopting a two-pronged strategy of self-help and external support.
The legislative precedent set by the Australian government is being closely watched by France and other countries. Social media’s citizen journalism is no substitute for professional journalism.
Without a viable news industry that abides by high standards of verification and objective reporting, a society may have to pay a heavy opportunity cost and the associated long-term damage can be irreparable.
Whether requiring internet platforms to pay for news content could really help the news industry remains to be seen. However, this measure is a significant milestone.
If this method does not work, then an alternative has to be considered. What is important is that the government is aware of the scale of the problem and is willing to take the first step to address it.
The Newspaper Society hopes that the Hong Kong government will take timely action to monitor and understand the relevant legislative arrangements overseas so that the city will not lag too far behind.
Following Australia’s move to use legislation to ensure local media’s survival is one option. Supporting the development of local media is another option that may yield results more quickly.
Amid the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a pressing need for the authorities to rally society to take the issue seriously and support the development of the news industry.
In November last year, based on the philosophy of self-help, the Newspaper Society set up Newsoc Hub, a one-stop online advertising platform for our member newspapers. Although much needs to be done to perfect its operation, Newsoc Hub has boosted the volume of advertising on member newspapers’ online channels and achieved a good promotional effect.
The initial success of Newsoc Hub can be attributed to the cooperation of members of the Newspaper Society and the support and assistance of the Hong Kong government and many big corporations.
The operational philosophy of Newsoc Hub is to provide technical support to the news industry, to avail advertisers of a convenient channel of guaranteed quality for promotion. Aimed at providing the local news industry with a reasonable return, the platform is a business operation and purely market-driven.
The attention and backing that Newsoc Hub has secured since it was set up show that the survival of the news media is a cause supported by different sectors of Hong Kong society.
The public understands that a declining local news industry would imply that society’s vitality is also withering. This is the biggest contributing factor behind Newsoc Hub’s substantial achievements after it was established with limited resources.
Newsoc Hub was launched at a time when people around the world are starting to appreciate the value of the news media. With the care and support of everyone, we sincerely hope that this initiative will become another Hong Kong success story.