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November 5, 2018updated 30 Sep 2022 7:02am

Guardian has received donations from more than 1m people but is ‘not a charity’ says editor Kath Viner

By Freddy Mayhew

The Guardian has received “financial support” from more than 1m readers since March 2016, editor Kath Viner has revealed, but she insists the newspaper is “not a charity”.

More than half of the more than 600,000 one-off donations came from the US, Viner said, with more than two-thirds of total “contributions” coming from outside the UK. Donations have come from more than 170 countries worldwide. 

Contributions, which start from £2 a month, are now a “crucial part” of the Guardian’s plan to break even by April [2019] under a three-year plan to turn its finances around, Viner said. She said it was still on track to do so.

The Guardian said in October last year that revenue from readers was outweighing its income from advertising.

In 2017/18 Guardian Media Group reported profit before tax of £53.2m, up from a loss of £25.1m the year before.

Touching on the Duopoly, Viner said Facebook and Google “should be held responsible for what appears on their platforms just as we are responsible for what appears on ours”.

She added: “Because or their dominance of digital advertising I think the competitions authority should have a look at what’s going on in the industry as well.”

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Viner also said there was a “trend towards attacking news organisations” around the world and that the UK Government should do more to set itself apart from that and stress the importance of journalism in a functioning democracy.

She also warned that the crisis the media was facing was not just a “broken business model”, but also a “growing distrust of media institutions”. 

She added: “I believe the Guardian’s funding model is a step in the right direction” in regaining trust.

But Viner revealed that the Guardian’s contributions model – which she said was “unheard of at the time” – faced criticism not from the inside as well as without.

“One journalist kept stopping me in the corridor saying I still don’t understand: you give money but what do you get?”

But, she added: “The readers understand it.”

Asked by Press Gazette if she supported a charity model for news organisations, a direction the Guardian seems to be going in, Viner said profit was still important.

“Our revenues have gone up three years in a row,” she said.

“It’s a long game and we need to find out what’s the best for journalism. I’m not convinced that this is the right way to go for journalism.”

Replying to ex-Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s speech attacking the Guardian and its former editor Alan Rusbridger last night, Viner said Rusbridger had been a “fantastic editor to work for” and one who “understood and embraced the digital revolution”. 

Asked by Press Gazette later on what she wanted to say to Dacre, Viner said: “Why is he so obsessed with the Guardian?”

On diversity in the newsroom, Viner said: “We must be constantly thinking about how we can make journalism more diverse… if we don’t, we risk becoming even more distant from people’s lives at this time of crisis – we will miss stories and drive mistrust in the media”. 

On a potential Corbyn government she said she hoped the Labour leader would “be supportive of a free and varied and outspoken and noisy press”.

Picture: Society of Editors

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