In September of 2021, more than 20 international and regional press associations in the Americas published a document claiming that the “sustainability of journalism is at risk.” The group highlighted the vulnerabilities facing the journalism industry in the digital age, where other actors capitalize on much of the value generated by news organizations.
The economic crisis, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has created “information deserts,” where entire communities have been without access to information because local media organizations have been forced to shut down. The precarious situation facing the media threatens freedom of expression and, consequently, the strength of democracies worldwide.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, characterized the threats facing the journalism industry as a “worrying extinction of the media,” a concern that UNESCO included in their declaration Windhoek + 30. The declaration points to the “severe economic crisis that represents an existential threat to the media,” and calls on governments to “guarantee funding flows from public sources to the media.” Similarly, the declaration asks digital companies to support the media through “inclusive association agreements” and financial measures.
Although some Big Tech actors have advanced important initiatives to address some of the financial threats facing local journalism, these measures are not enough to guarantee the sustainability of many media outlets.
The European Union and Australia have established initiatives in which large digital platforms compensate media outlets for the use of their content, thus achieving some progress toward sustainability of the local media. For example, Australia launched the News Media Bargaining Code in February of 2021, and the European Union has proposed a regulatory framework to reduce possible compensatory abuse on the side of Big Tech corporations.
It is necessary to have a regulatory framework in the Americas that considers each nation’s different economic, cultural, and political contexts. The solution is not to replicate external mechanisms but to establish a regulatory framework that respects freedom of expression and achieves a balance between small media organizations and large technology platforms that guarantee the media’s sustainability.
Panelists will consider the following questions in this event:
- What are the main challenges affecting newspapers in the Americas?
- What is the impact of the Big Techs in local media?
- Do we need new regulations?
- What kind of regulatory model is useful in the Americas?