The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has launched a News Recovery Plan, entitled ‘From Health Crisis to Good News: A recovery plan for the news industry by the NUJ.’ The plan explains the way in which the coronavirus outbreak has impacted journalists and the media industry, and outlines a series of measures to rescue and revitalise the news industry.

In addition, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) – to which the NUJ in the UK and Ireland is affiliated – recently published their annual report to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. 

The report by the IFJ provides an overview of the alerts recorded in 2019 and an assessment of the most prevalent issues for the industry across Europe. The report, ‘recorded 142 serious threats to media freedom, including 33 physical attacks against journalists, 17 new cases of detention and imprisonment, 43 cases of harassment and intimidation, and two new cases of impunity for murder. Taken together, these alerts show a growing pattern of intimidation to silence journalists that requires urgent actions by member states to uphold the essential role of a free press in democratic societies.’

The pandemic has emphasised the need for reliable information, education and entertainment from public service broadcasters. The report states that, in recent weeks, ‘broadcasters have reached record audience figures on all platforms, across all demographics.’ Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “The global health crisis has shown the public desperately needs information that is accurate and reliable. This is why quality journalism falls within the spectrum of essential public services. It must be supported and sustained because society needs it.”

However, the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic is affecting media companies of all sizes. The report explains that, owing to the prevalence of ‘casualisation’ in the industry over many years, the pandemic has further exposed the vague employment status and lack of state support for freelancers and the self-employed.

As such, the NUJ are calling for an immediate new investment in the Future News Fund operated via NESTA, with a similar scheme introduced in Ireland. The News Recovery Plan outlines short- and medium-term solutions to be implemented to protect and revitalise the industry:

In the short term:

  • Windfall tax of 6% on tech giants
  • A two-year targeted programme for frontline journalistic news roles to support reporting through the crisis and recovery
  • No public money for firms making redundancies, cutting pay, taking executive bonuses or blocking trade union organisation
  • Companies receiving public funds prohibited for five years from engaging in mergers and acquisition activity or leveraged buyouts
  • Strategic investment in government advertising
  • Financial support package for innovative, public interest journalism
  • Free vouchers for online or print subscriptions to all 18- and 19-year olds, and tax credits for households with subscriptions to boost engagement

In the medium term:

  • Establishment of a government-funded Journalism Foundation to invest in local news and innovative national public interest journalistic projects, with particular encouragement for new models and start-ups across all platforms
  • Conferment of “asset of community value” status on local newspapers, to ensure that titles cannot be closed overnight without proper scrutiny, as well as allowing establishment of charitable status to media outlets that want it
  • Tax breaks, rate relief and other financial support
  • Employee representation on executive boards in receipt of public funding
  • Independent sustainable funding of public service broadcasting that protects its universality and prevents government interference
  • Rollout of nationwide media literacy initiatives to tackle disinformation and fake news
  • Reform of media ownership rules
  • Opening up access to journalism for school-leavers
  • Protection of whistle-blowers
  • Monitoring of the potential impact of surveillance technologies being considered in response to Covid-19
  • Support global framework to protect and promote journalism and press freedom

Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said: “We are reaching out to businesses, governments and others with the collective aim to emerge from this crisis with a media industry that is sustainable and focused on serving the public interest. Media freedom can only genuinely thrive if there is an adequate financial settlement to the current and existential crisis.”

Follow the link below to access the full text of the NUJ’s News Recovery Plan online:

Sign the NUJ’s petition, backing the NUJ’s plan to reinvent the news industry:

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