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Big Tech and Journalism – Principles for Fair Compensation

Status: Open

Organisation: GIBS Media Leadership Think Tank

Deadline: Ongoing

Location: Online


The Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future for the Global South conference was held from 13-14 July 2023 at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg. Hosted by the GIBS Media Leadership Think Tank, the conference brought together over 70 journalists, news publishers, media organisations, scholars, activists, lawyers, and economists from 24 countries to discuss solutions to the crisis of the sustainability of journalism and its intersection with the role of major tech platforms.

The conference aimed to share lessons learned and identify commonalities within and across regions with regard to media sustainability initiatives via legislation and competition authorities. Robust discussions were held on the experiences of countries that have already or are considering implementing such initiatives to sustain journalism, as well as the challenges of doing so in other countries with large media industries but severe sustainability challenges. The conference featured panel discussions focusing on South Africa, Australia, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as a series of keynotes by distinguished speakers.

Video recordings of the conference can be viewed here.

The conference culminated in the adoption of ‘Big Tech and Journalism: Principles for Fair Compensation’ (the Principles). The Principles are intended to be universal, serving as a framework for any country seeking to address media sustainability through competition or regulatory approaches, while enabling adaptation to the unique context. It is hoped that the Principles will represent an important step forward in addressing news media sustainability in the tumultuous era of Big Tech.

This site includes downloads of the full Conference Report as well as English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese translations of the Principles. Additional language versions of the Principles and further endorsements will be added in due course.  Here are the Principles:

Big Tech and Journalism: Principles for Fair Compensation


These principles are intended to help in the design, implementation, and evaluation of public policy mechanisms that oblige digital platforms and news publishers to engage with each other to develop fair economic terms.

The principles recognize freedom of expression as a foundational human right underpinning democracy and support public interest journalism as a public good that should be available to all. Any mechanisms pertaining to the principles must therefore be founded on the same commitment.

For the purposes of these principles, ‘platforms’ mean social media, chat, search engines, generative Artificial Intelligence models and applications, and other such intermediaries. By ‘publishers’ we mean providers of original print, digital, or broadcast news using any combination of text, audio, and visual media.

Policymakers in different jurisdictions will use different policies to achieve similar aims, so we refer to these simply as ‘mechanisms’ throughout. Rather than set detailed expectations for these different mechanisms, we propose overarching principles that should apply in a wide range of contexts, including between platforms and publishers

  1. Public interest

Mechanisms should support and invest in public interest journalism, by which we mean news and information produced to professional journalistic standards which informs the public about matters that are relevant to their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Mechanisms may also have the effect of supporting other forms of journalism, but – other things being equal – they should prioritise the support of public interest journalism.

 2. Plurality

Mechanisms should support plurality in the platform and publishing markets. In particular, mechanisms should have a net positive impact on the plurality of publishers in a market. They should not create a bias in favour of incumbent publishers or platforms but should serve to mitigate any incumbency bias so that the public can – in the medium to long term – benefit from a greater range of platforms and publishers. Very small, medium, and start-up publishers must be able to benefit.

3. Diversity

Mechanisms should support diversity in the news publishing market and should have a net positive impact on the range of content, voices, and languages represented in the news market, including the voices of historically under-represented and marginalized groups. They should not create a bias in favour of historically dominant voices.

4. Sustainability

Mechanisms should support sustainability in the news publishing market, for individual publishers and the sector as a whole, by ensuring they receive fair compensation for the use of their intellectual property and content. Mechanisms should adapt to evolving market conditions and enhance the likelihood that publishers can build diverse revenue streams.

5. Fairness

Mechanisms should ensure that terms of engagement between platforms and publishers are consistent across a market, and do not allow individual platforms or publishers to strike preferential arrangements. This does not mean that all platforms should give all publishers the same amount of money. But it does mean that the basis for payments and usage deals should be the same for all publishers in that market, and determined using objectively verifiable criteria. Platforms should not be able to favour certain publishers simply because those publishers have greater political influence or larger market capitalisation, for example. It also means that all deals between platforms and publishers should be agreed upon in a similarly timely manner and that neither party should be able to use their comparative bargaining power to drag out negotiations.

6. Collectivity

Small and medium-sized publishers should be allowed to coordinate their efforts, which may include collective bargaining with platforms.

7. Transparency

The highest possible degree of transparency should be adopted for both the process by which policy interventions are designed and implemented as well as the outcomes obtained. Both platforms and publishers should adopt the highest possible degree of transparency so that all parties can judge the fairness of any deal and so that third parties can assess and evaluate the impact of the mechanism as a whole. For example, mechanisms may require platforms and publishers to share data about the size and behavior of their audiences and advertising placements. Considerations may still be given to competition concerns. Where personal or commercially sensitive data is involved, it may be shared only between the parties and with any enforcement body. All information should be shared with the public when suitably aggregated and anonymised.

8. Accountability

Mechanisms should not inhibit the freedom of publishers, through their journalism, to hold platforms accountable for their actions, or the freedom of platforms to criticise publishers. The terms of engagement between them should be openly published to ensure that all parties can be held accountable and to build confidence with the public.

Third-party assessors that are independent of any enforcement body should be able to review these mechanisms and their outcomes. They must have the power to make recommendations to such a body and, where necessary and appropriate, legislatures. They should ensure a meaningful opportunity for public consultation on the performance of the mechanisms.

9. Independence

Mechanisms should be overseen and enforced by bodies that are demonstrably independent of both the platform and publishing industries. Whilst these bodies may, where appropriate, be established and funded by national or regional governments, they must be operationally independent of political influence and sufficiently well-funded to mitigate any risk of undue interference. Enforcement bodies should have clear aims and objectives to allow industry, researchers, civil society, and the public to determine whether or not they are meeting these aims and objectives.

10. Outcomes

Mechanisms should be outcomes-oriented, with the principles of public interest, plurality, diversity, and sustainability of the media at their heart. They should be assessed against these outcomes on a regular basis by independent third parties, who should be in a position to publish an honest and robust critique of the performance of the mechanisms.

Read the Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Bahasa Indonesia principles version here.

Adopted on 14 July 2023

These Principles were adopted by participants at ‘Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future in the Global South,’ a conference held at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 14 July 2023.

The Principles have been endorsed by:

  • Abdoulaye Haidara Youssouf, Journalist, Niger
  • Agnes E. John–Thomasi, Head, West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR), Senegal
  • Dr Agus Sudibyo, Advisory board member, Indonesia Journalist Union (Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia), Indonesia
  • Alassane Samba Diop, Managing Director of Emedia Invest, Senegal
  • Alexis Johann, Managing Partner, FehrAdvice & Partners AG, Zürich, Switzerland
  • Alexis Kalambry, CEO, Mali-Tribune Press Group, Mali
  • Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director, Research ICT Africa (RIA), South Africa
  • André Gouws, lecturer, Department of Languages and Cultural Sciences, Akademia, South Africa
  • Anton Harber, Director, Campaign for Free Expression, South Africa
  • Dr Anya Schiffrin, Senior Lecturer of Practice, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, United States of America (U.S)
  • Bruce Mutsvairo, Professor and UNESCO Chair on Disinformation, Data and Democracy, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Camille Grenier, Operations Director, Forum on Information and Democracy, France
  • Dr Chamil Wariya, Chairman, Malaysian Press Institute (MPI), Cyberjaya, Malaysia
  • Churchill Otieno, Executive Director, Eastern Africa Editors Society, and Chairman Africa Media Convention, Kenya
  • Dr Courtney Radsch, fellow UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy and Director, Center for Journalism and Liberty, U.S
  • Dr Dinesh Balliah, Director, Wits Centre for Journalism, Wits University, South Africa
  • Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
  • Elhadji Ibrahima Thiam, Journalist, Le Soleil, Senegal
  • Emma McDonald, Executive Director, Impact Missions, Minderoo Foundation, Australia
  • Dr Francis Mdlongwa, Senior Consultant on media, journalism, media management, and business strategies, South Africa
  • Franz Krüger, Associate Professor, NLA Mediehøgskolen, Kristiansand, Norway and associate researcher, Wits Centre of Journalism, South Africa
  • Hamadou Tidiane SY, journalist, founder of E-jicom and Ouestaf news, Senegal
  • Hani Barghouthi, Campaigns Manager, Public Interest News Foundation, United Kingdom
  • Dr Harry Dugmore, Discipline Lead in Communication, School of Business and Creative Industries, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia
  • Izak Minnaar, independent journalism consultant and trainer, South Africa
  • Dr Iyobosa Uwugiaren, General Secretary, Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigeria
  • Paul-Joel Kamtchang, Founder-Executive Secretary, ADISI-Cameroun, Cameroon
  • Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director, Public Interest News Foundation, United Kingdom
  • José María León-Cabrera, CEO, on behalf of GK Ecuador, Ecuador
  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, University Professor, Columbia University, Nobel Laureate 2001, U.S
  • Justine Limpitlaw, Honorary Adjunct Professor, LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Kate Skinner, Director, Association of Independent Publishers, South Africa
  • Kelly Stony Nkute, Journalist, Presenter and Producer, Radio Okapi, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Lawrence Gibbons, Publisher, Star Observer and City Hub, Co-Chair of Public Interest Publishers Alliance (PIPA), Australia
  • Maria Saras-Voutsinas, Executive Director , National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada
  • Michael Karanicolas, Executive Director, UCLA Institute for Technology, Law and Policy, U.S
  • Michael Markovitz, Head: GIBS Media Leadership Think Tank, Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), South Africa
  • Momar Dieng, freelance journalist, Impact.sn, Senegal
  • Nancy Booker, Associate Professor and Dean, Graduate School of Media and Communications, Aga Khan University, Kenya
  • Natalia Viana, Executive Director: Agência Pública, and Havard Nieman Fellow 2022, Brazil
  • Ndeye Magatte Kebe, Publishing Director, www.lesafricaines.net and www.hydrodiplomacy.com, Senegal
  • Nelson Yap, Publisher of Australian Property Journal, Co-Chair of the Public Interest Publishers Alliance, Australia
  • Pamella Makotsi Sittoni, Group Managing Editor, Nation Media Group, Kenya
  • Paul-Joel Kamtchang, Founder-Executive Secretary, ADISI-Cameroun, Cameroon
  • Phathiswa Magopeni, Board Director, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), South Africa
  • Rosalia Omungo, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Editors’ Guild, Kenya
  • Sasmito, President, Alliance of Independent Journalists, Indonesia
  • Sekoetlane Phamodi, Director, New Economy Campaigns Hub, South Africa
  • Seydou Traore, Founder of Keniebamedia, Mali
  • Dr Selay Marius Kouassi, Independent Journalist, Consultant and Trainer, Founder and Executive Director IRAF (Information Resilience Africa), Côte d’Ivoire
  • Sibusiso Ngalwa, Chairperson, South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), South Africa
  • Tania L. Montalvo, Independent Journalist. Mexico
  • Taylor Owen, Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications, The Director of The Center for Media, Technology and Democracy, and Associate Professor in the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University, Canada
  • Dr Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey, Lecturer, Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana and Research Associate, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, South Africa
  • Uyanda Siyotula, National Coordinator, SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, South Africa
  • Wahyu Dhyatmika, Secretary General, Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI), Indonesia
  • Vibodh Parthasarathi, Associate Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India (in personal capacity)
  • William Bird, Director, Media Monitoring Africa, South Africa
  • Zoé Titus, Director, Namibia Media Trust (NMT), Namibia
  • Zubeidah Kananu, President, Kenya Editors’ Guild, Kenya


  • BBC Media Action, United Kingdom
  • Center for Media, Technology and Democracy, Canada
  • Digital Journalism Association (Ajor), Brazil
  • Campaign for Free Expression, South Africa
  • Eastern Africa Editors Society
  • Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA), Argentina
  • Kenya Editors’ Guild, Kenya
  • Media Monitoring Africa, South Africa
  • Namibia Media Trust, Namibia
  • Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigeria
  • Open Markets Institute, U.S
  • Ouestaf News, West African online news platform, Senegal
  • Publisher Interest Publishers Alliance (PIPA), Australia
  • Public Interest News Foundation, (PINF), United Kingdom
  • SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition, South Africa
  • South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), South Africa
  • Union of Information and Communication Professionals of Senegal (SYNPICS), Senegal
  • Vladimir Herzog Institute, Brazil
  • Wits Centre for Journalism, South Africa

Endorsements as of 27 July 2023. If you or your organisation wish to endorse these principles, please send your name, designation, and organisation to markovitzm@gibs.co.za

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