Committee wants internet fee to support newspapers
Internet users should pay an annual fee to support print media, a special committee has advised Dutch media minister Ronald Plasterk.
A fee of several euros per year per internet connection should be made available to boost innovations by print media, according to a committee under the chairmanship of former politician Elco Brinkman that published its findings on Tuesday.
Plasterk had asked Brinkman what could be done to preserve the diversity of the Dutch press, which has witnessed a drop in subscriptions and advertising revenue. Plasterk asked for recommendations to support the media without mingling with the companies and their journalists.
Brinkman said the fee is important "to make surfers aware that information on the web is not free." On top of the internet taxation, Brinkman recommended limiting the responsibilities of the public broadcasting companies.
The Netherlands has three national and several local TV channels and numerous radio and digital stations operating with state money. But they also sell advertising, and Plasterk now wants to use 8 million euros of that revenue to support the diversity and innovations of the press.
However, in a first response to the Brinkman recommendations, Plasterk said he is "hesitant" about the internet fee, that could amount to 20 milion euros. NRC Handelsblad chief editor Birgit Donker called the idea "absurd".
Newspapers and magazines, including NRC Handelsblad, have complained about unfair competition from public media in the battle for advertising revenue. Brinkman does not want to go so far as to end advertising on public channels, like French president Nicolas Sarkozy has done.
Brinkman also spoke against the idea previously supported by Plasterk to give every 18-year-old a free subscription to a paper of choice.