David Singleton: Online charge proposal needs work

Plans by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) to extend its licensing remit were never likely to be well received by PR professionals.

David Singleton
David Singleton

In fact, this week’s decision to charge for online content appears to have gone down like a massive lead balloon in every nook and cranny of the industry.

The charge will apply to all media monitoring organisations, as well as agencies and in-house teams that forward or receive links on a ‘systematic basis’.

The PRCA has described the proposed charge as a ‘back-door tax’ and ‘quite outrageous’.

The CIPR – often the less strident of the two industry bodies – has come out as ‘fundamentally opposed’ to it.

Individual agency bosses have also slated the plans, as our story on page three makes clear.

The industry’s frustration with the NLA’s decision is justifiable – PR agencies should not have to shell out thousands of pounds simply for forwarding a few links to a client.

There is also the legitimate question of why these charges are being imposed on small PR agencies and cuttings services, while the monolithic Google appears to be exempt from the charging plans.

One possible outcome of the NLA’s stance is that Google will continue to grow exponentially at the expense of various parts of the PR industry.

Nevertheless, it is understandable that newspapers feel increasingly aggrieved about giving content away for free. It should not be surprising, therefore, that the NLA is taking action to deal with this.

Media monitoring organisations, PR agencies and in-house teams will all be required to have the new licence by September next year.

The NLA has indicated that the plans are a done deal – but the charge is not due to come into effect until January next year.

That means the NLA still has plenty of time to listen to the PR industry and to ensure the plans measure up.

It is in everyone’s interests that the newspaper industry is healthy, but that should not mean the PR industry has to suffer.

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