Two-pronged support for local news media
By Keith Kam, Chairman of The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong
Media around the world are suffering revenue losses and operational difficulties because of the large-scale posting of their news content on internet platforms has become an international issue.
The recent passage of a law in Australia requiring social media platforms and search engines to pay news outlets for content has sparked considerable reactions 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 an industry but also the international status of Hong Kong.
As an industry organisation, The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong regards a reasonable and healthy business environment as vital to maintaining the journalistic standards of the local news industry.
Achieving this objective hinges on adopting a two-pronged strategy of "self-help and external support".
The legislative precedent set by the Australian government has already aroused the attention of France and other countries because 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 is irreparable.
Whether requiring internet platforms to pay for news content could really help the news industry remains to be determined. 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 willing to take the first step to address it.
The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong hopes that the government will take timely actions to monitor and understand the relevant legislative arrangements overseas so that it will not lag too far behind.
Following Australia’s move to use legislation to protect local media’s right to survive is one option. Supporting and encouraging the development of local media is another option that may yield results more quickly.
As Hong Kong is buffeted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a pressing need for the authorities to encourage every sector to take the issue seriously by supporting the development of the news industry.
In November last year, based on the philosophy of self-help, The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong set up NewsocHub, a new one-stop online advertising platform for our member newspapers.
Although much needs to be done to perfect its operation, NewsocHub has boosted the volume of advertising on member newspapers’ online channels and achieved spectacular promotional effect.
I will share the details of some success cases when the opportunity arises.
NewsocHub as an industry platform
The initial success of NewsocHub can be attributed to the cooperation of members of The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong and the support and assistance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and many big corporations.
The operational philosophy of NewsocHub 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 NewsocHub has secured since it was set up show that it is a right move that commands support from different sectors.
The public understands that a declining local news industry would imply the society’s vitality is also withering.
This is the biggest contributing factor behind NewsocHub’s spectacular achievements after it was established with limited resources.
NewsocHub has been launched as the whole world begins to appreciate the value of the news media.
With the care and support of everyone, we sincerely hope that this initiative by The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong will grow to become another success story of Hong Kong.