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PIJI proposes tax rebates, unveils guidebook  

As debate continues around the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s  (ACCC) Mandatory Digital Platforms News Media Bargaining Code, the Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI) is calling on the Federal Government to consider industry tax rebates for the production of public interest journalism.

PIJI has maintained the ACCC code cannot operate in isolation and the government should be considering a range of policy options including tax incentives to support this essential service, as recommended in the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry (DPI).

“There is no one magic pill that can cure the financial stress facing public interest journalism in Australia, especially during this pandemic, which has made the pain felt across the industry more acute,” explains PIJI Chair Prof Allan Fels AO. 

“A suite of forward-thinking, innovative ideas is needed to support this public good that improves transparency in civil infrastructure such as the justice system and save lives during national emergencies like bushfires and the current pandemic.

“An industry rebate scheme also directly incentivizes reinvestment in news production – the public good we are looking to support and stimulate.”

PIJI is investigating three areas of taxation reform for public interest journalism:

  • Industry tax rebates for public interest journalism producers
  • Philanthropic tax incentives (such as deductible gift recipient status)
  • Commercial investment tax incentives

The first proposed incentive is the subject of our report being released today, Guidebook to implement and claim a Public Interest Journalism Tax Rebate.

Tax rebates would be similar to those provided to R&D (in Australia and a number of other countries) and are designed to offset the cost of journalism and so encourage more news activities that generate public benefit.

A 50% tax rebate (the highest scenario) could deliver up to $711 million in public benefit from increased Australian public interest journalism,  PIJI modelling suggests. It would involve a $375m cost to taxpayers, representing very good value for money.

The vast majority of Australians value public interest journalism and are willing to pay for it via taxation, according to both PIJI’s cumulative community value research.

The second of this three-part survey – which polled over 1,000 people – found that the majority of respondents (53 per cent) would endorse a $6 a year tax increase to support public interest journalism, while 40 per cent would agree to an annual tax increase of $12.

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