The New Media Settlement Starts Here In Uganda

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Uganda has just instituted a tax upon those who would use social media. This is quite obviously a good thing. For as we keep being told these new media outlets are stealing the advertising revenue which keeps the more traditional news media – the newspapers for example – operating. And that’s a pain that no society should be expected to endure, unemployed journalists.

So, why not:

Ugandans have taken to Twitter to complain about the imposition of a 200 Uganda shilling [$0.05, £0.04] tax on the use of social media.

Note that Uganda is a poor enough place that this is a noticeable sum of money.

Uganda’s government has kept its promise: Many Ugandans woke up today (July 1) to find that if they hadn’t paid the new tax on social-media use, services like WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and Skype were inaccessible.

It is indeed Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter which are blamed for stealing that advertising revenue. So, why shouldn’t a tax be charged so as to be able to subsidise that media?

Yes, of course, I am indeed mixing and matching my stories here. Uganda has the tax because people use social media to gossip about the government, in a manner the government doesn’t like. But this morning in The Guardian we had:

While I share with those publishers a belief that Google and Facebook could do more to underwrite independent journalism, I am eager to see the emergence of funding innovations that they have so far opposed. There must be transitional support, via government if necessary, for news organisations prepared to consider a mixed economy: philanthropy; informal public contributions (as the Guardian is doing); formal public subsidies; payments for partial online access; and, yes, advertising too.

That is, the new media must be taxed to subsidise the old media. Actually, the two stories aren’t so different, are they? Tax them over there because we don’t like what they’re doing. They’re not different stories at all.

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chap in chelsea

Frederic Bastiat, please call your office…