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Channel 4 News editor calls on industry to build own news platform as he says Facebook now pays nothing to broadcaster

By Freddy Mayhew

Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear has called on the news industry to create an alternative to Facebook that will fund publishers, as he revealed the social network is now paying nothing to the broadcaster.

Channel 4 News’ own Facebook page has well over 4m likes and it has won awards for its videos, shared on the platform, including reports from filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab on the ground in war-torn Syria.

De Pear told the Drum that Channel 4 News had made a strategic decision to use clips of its video content on Facebook, receiving 2bn views in 2016 alone.

But he repeated his complaint that the revenue income from Facebook in exchange for this content was a fraction of what it cost to create it. Although he said Facebook money was used to expand the broadcaster’s digital team.

He told the Drum that Facebook had rejected his request for more “transparency on the money” and that after the broadcaster decided not to use mid-roll adverts in videos, following a change in Facebook’s video setup, Channel 4 News was no longer receiving money from the platform.

“I said we couldn’t do that, we couldn’t have a news report about Aleppo and then have an ad in the middle for Persil Automatic,” he said. “We now get no money from Facebook for our content.”

Facebook has come under fire after 50m users’ data was allegedly harvested by Cambridge Analytica in a bid to target them with political advertising around the US presidential election in 2016 and possibly the Brexit vote.

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Channel 4 News was one of three news organisations, including the Observer and New York Times, to expose the scandal. Its reporters went undercover to interview Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix.

The media coverage has resulted in Facebook’s share prices plummeting, wiping $67bn from the company’s value.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg took out full-page adverts in six UK national newspapers on Sunday apologising for what he said had been a “breach of trust”.

Cambridge Analytica is under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office while Zuckerberg has been called to appear before UK MPs and US congress.

Prior to this Facebook had been facing heavy criticism over its role in the proliferation of “fake news”, including the dissemination of Russian state-sponsored advertising that may have influenced UK politics, and its failure to take down videos promoting extremism and terrorism.

De Pear told the Drum: “The question we have had over the past year is: is Facebook too toxic a platform to actually appear on as news?

“All the news organisations need to talk to each other and maybe we can come up with a separate platform – I don’t know, call it Newsbook? – where we can be funded.”

He added: “It’s probably unrealistic but should all news be in one place? [A place] where you see a multitude of opinions but where it is verified news and not just made up, like so much of it was on Facebook, and it’s run by organisations which care about news and care about the truth, which Facebook has not yet proven they do.”

De Pear also echoed calls for Facebook to be regulated and said it had grown too large and powerful.

“Facebook’s plan, which was to be the internet all in one place, where you had your friends and personal stuff alongside everything to do with news and entertainment, we can see now it was just too ambitious, too dangerous,” he told the Drum.

“Maybe you need to know that where you are reading a news article is not the website or app of a particular news organisation, it’s on a platform that is designed for and values news and not just somewhere where Uncle Bertie’s 80th is mixed up with Cheryl’s hen party and, oh look, there’s been a terror attack in Mogadishu.”


Picture: Channel 4 News

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