I’ve was listening on the radio (You & Yours, I think) to a debate about the PPL and PRS licences businesses need in order to play music in the workplace.
As a quick explanation, this is from law firm Hammonds (warning – it’s a pdf):
Any copyright music which is played within a business and can be heard by more than one person (whether staff members or the general public) is likely to require a licence. This includes music played almost anywhere outside a private dwelling, for example in offices and factories; shops and stores; leisure facilities; kitchens; staff rooms; post rooms; and even music played on the telephone whilst customers are put on hold; as well as the usual public areas such as waiting rooms, restaurants and bars.
That lead me to think of all the newspapers sitting in cafes, bars and waiting rooms across the UK. Each newspaper is only bought once but many may read and benefit from it.
In some respects it doesn’t really matter how this has come to pass – whether it is because of competition from other platforms, the public perception of news being a right or just the newspaper industry historically undervaluing itself – the point it illustrates is that the news industry doesn’t really believe its content has any value other than to provide structure around which to place advertising.
This seriously effects how the industry can now move forward and, with such different attitudes to the value of their content, how can we suggest that the answers to the news industry’s woes can be found in the experiences of the music industry?
My first thought was surely PRS doesn’t apply to playing radio in public places since the station has already paid a fee, funded by their advertisers / license fee payers. It would seem from that document (the filename for which needs replacing with .pdf btw) that I’d be wrong to think that and music via radio stations is paid for twice. Which is interesting.
Anyway, if I’d have been right I’d have suggested newspapers in cafes, etc are similar to radio played in cafes as the advertising pays of them. In fact it’s more attractive to advertisers to have more readers than purchasers, no?
But I’m not right because the music recording industry is really weird and not something you can usefully use for analogies. 😉
As for the value of news, I think everyone knows that 50p or whatever per paper doesn’t equal the cost of gathering that news. As an outsider I’d guess it’s something like 10% sales, 90% advertising? So while the true cost of the paper might be £5 there’s no way I’m going to pay that on a daily basis. (I might, however, pay that for something like The New Yorker every week. But only offline with the cover art being a major draw.)
Which brings us to subsidies. Assume you saw this:
The idea is flawed in a number of places (not least that good solid reporting isn’t always popular) but at least there’s a president. The news gathering part of your industry has been subsidised by the advertising gathering part for decades. Switching to another form of subsidy shouldn’t be conceptually hard.
Replace the words “music” and “hear” in that excerpt with “news” and “read”. Can you imagine how hard it would be to enforce that? It’s as hard for music firms; that is why more music is being pirated than sold.
If we accept that mankind is generally on the right track (though it sometimes takes a roundabout way) and things on the whole are developing for the good, then we must also accept news is either going to be needed and have a future or become obsolete and die off. There’s nothing we could do about changing the direction of evolution: and why would we.
But that’s just pseudo-philosophic blabber. You’re right; the news industry (as in: its managers) doesn’t really believe its content has any value other than to provide structure around which to place advertising.
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