Jeremy Corbyn Wants to Tax Tech Companies and Give Some of the Money to the BBC

By Tom Pritchard on at

There are a lot of things you could expect if Jeremy Corbyn ever becomes Prime Minister. Serious work into renationalising the rail services, poorer international relations with Israel, and both the Sun and Express having a meltdown at the news. The controversial Labour leader has also announced new plans that involve taxing tech companies, with the funds being diverted to the BBC and a money pool for new independent journalism.

These are among the ideas announced by the Labour leader at the Edinburgh TV Festival, with the media funding tax being referred to as a 'digital licence fee'. Corbyn name dropped the likes of Amazon, Google, and Facebook as the companies that would be affected. Essentially Corbyn is using this opportunity to be critical of the amount of power and influence billionaires and tech companies have over the media landscape, citing that as one of the reasons people have such low trust in the media. In the case of the BBC he blames this on excessive state influence.

Corbyn also wants existing non-profit news organisations to be given charitable status, and believes "news co-operatives" should launch with the purpose of reporting on local government, private companies operating any public services, and other regulated organisations.

"The best journalism takes on the powerful, in the corporate world as well as government and helps create an informed public.

"This work costs money. We value it but somehow that does not translate into proper funding and legal support."

The idea behind the tax is to have it paid through some sort of "content sharing and advertising revenue agreement" with Google, similar to the type of thing that happens in France in Belgium. Another suggestion includes a one-off tax on the profits of market-leading search engines and other similar platforms if it's not possible to "tap up the digital monopolies that profit from every search, share and like we make."

Presumably Corbyn will make sure there are minimal loopholes for companies to try and exploit to avoid paying their share.

On top of this there are plenty of other plans, especially where the BBC is concerned. Corbyn wants to publish details on the social class of all BBC content creators, regardless of whether they work "in-house or external". He also wants responsibility for the licence fee to be taken from government ministers and handed to an independent body, while also giving BBC staff and licence fee payers the chance to elect members of its regional and editorial boards, and reduce the cost of the licence fee for poorer households.

Conservatives have hit back at the plans, naturally, referring to them as "economically illiterate" while noting they would hurt consumers thanks to an increase in consumer bills. This is despite the fact Chancellor Phillip Hammond has been threatening tech companies with new taxes for a variety of reasons for some time.

While I'm definitely keen on journalism having more money and opportunity (for obvious reasons), there is a lot to think about here. I'm sure plenty of people would be more than happy to have the BBC funded by alternative means, rather than the money they pay on the licence fee, but there are a lot of logistics here. How are the companies going to be taxed, how is it going to be split between them, and most importantly which companies would be affected. It's easy to say "tech companies", but there are a lot of tech companies of varying sizes.

This is all assuming Corbyn will lead Labour to victory at the next general election. [BBC News]

Image: DAVID HOLT/Flickr