Online news publications in France will share in state aid for the first time, to the tune of €20 million, Le Monde reports. Eighty per cent of the aid will be in the form of subsidies, while the rest will be in repayable loans.
This news follows the controversial state subsidies of the French press, which totalled €1.2 billion in 2008 and includes a free newspaper scheme for young people. A new body representing online news publishers, Syndicat de la Presse Indépendante d'Information en Ligne (Spiil) has been debating whether or not to accept similar subsidies for some time.
Several online-only sites will receive the subsidy. News and debate website Rue89 will receive €249,000, independent and participatory news website Mediapart will get €200,000, and magazine-format website Slate.fr will take €199,000. The amounts they will receive are linked to submissions the sites made to the government, rather than to audience size or total revenue.
Traditionally, newspapers have been reluctant to make public the amount of the state subsidy they receive. Spiil is fighting for greater transparency on the matter.
Some of these websites regret that the majority of the state subsidies will go to the traditional press. Spiil President Maurice Botbol said that the delay between the announcement of the provision for subsidies and the final date for submissions was too short, less than a fortnight. The traditional media was ready with submissions, and had been ready for several years in some cases, he said. "It was better equipped than us," he said.
Founder of Rue89 Pierre Haski said that the funds would enable them to develop projects that would not have been possible without the aid. "This money will allow us to create a new platform," he said.
Mediapart will use the subsidy for its marketing operations.
The traditional anxiety around subsidies, that they risk influencing news content by making journalists feel indebted to the government, is not addressed by this scheme. But it does at least recognise the importance of online news in the contemporary news publishing industry.
Source: Le Monde