There is a great debate over on The Guardian’s Voluntary Sector Network today around the fees that the NLA (Newspaper Licencing Agency) obliges charities to pay for collecting – and circulating – its media coverage. Vicky Browning, Director of CharityComms lays out her charge (full transparency: I am a trustee of CharityComms) and David Pugh, Managing Director of the NLA posts his counter argument.
This discussion simply must be had – and right now – against the backdrop of a newspaper industry facing unique scrutiny into its journalism, practices, and revenue-generation moving forward. It is interesting that, as David writes, the NLA provides a useful revenue stream to British newspapers. Well perhaps things are changing.
Commentators such as Clay Shirky point out that newspapers are no longer the fixed ‘bundles’ they once were – and the proliferation of means of sharing online content for example (actively promoted by publishers) encourages readers to “forward each other individual URLs without regard to front pages or named sections or intended navigation.” Is it really likely (nay enforcable) that someone who shares a link on Twitter to a news story will be tweeted by the NLA moments later asking a fee for breaching copyright? This is the reality for charities sharing their successes both in offline and online media with its own staff, partners and funders.
And the idea that charities provide content for a newspaper – filling its pages with comment and opinion (and sometimes wholesale articles in cases of copy-and-paste churnalism) – should then be charged for the obligation of having to demonstrate its impact to its own funders, seems slightly off-kilter.
Dare I take umbrage with The Guardian itself, and suggest that when it chooses charities for its Christmas appeal, these charities are charged if they wish to circulate copies of their coverage to colleagues at work. Ditto if charities are shortlisted for, or win, a Guardian award, The Guardian will charge them for circulating copies of this news at their workplace. As The Guardian Media Group is a shareholder in the NLA, this is in effect what is happening.
Charities are being told to be shrewd with their funds, to do more with less – and this goverment has stressed that in order to attract and sustain funding, non-profits must be transparent in the demonstrable impact of their work.
We aren’t selling cars or gadgets; we’re trying to save lives, support people’s independence and plug holes in the public sector. If we are silenced from doing this by prohibitive taxes on effectively being victims of our own success, the funding will simply dry up and we will be no more. You won’t hear from us.
Forgive my dramatic doomsday last line…but, seriously, together we have to find a better way.