The Funke supervisory board chairwoman Julia Becker is demanding that the state waive VAT on journalistic products. In view of the enormous challenges that publishers face, such a step would be a powerful investment in democracy, she said in her opening speech at the European Publishing Congress in Vienna on Monday.
“Anyone who manages to reduce taxes on climate-damaging fuels within a few weeks and watches idly as oil companies siphon off part of the tax reduction as profit will probably also manage to tax journalistic products as the ‘fuel of democracy’ less,” said Becker.
VÖZ goes along with it
Media companies in Austria are also confronted with sharply rising prices. The Association of Austrian Newspapers (VÖZ) therefore “expressly” supports Becker’s proposal, as VÖZ President Markus Mair emphasized in a broadcast.
“As early as the second half of 2020, the VAT on newspapers and magazines in Austria was reduced to five percent as part of the corona relief measures,” Mair recalls. “That was a significant economic stimulus and a right step to strengthen editorial media. Unfortunately, this measure was only temporary.”
Especially against the background of the digital transformation, a permanent reduction in VAT could be a tried and tested means of promoting the media, said Mair. “On the part of the VÖZ, we will also support this effective measure with regard to the realignment of press funding currently being negotiated in the federal government.”
It is also worth taking a look beyond the Austrian horizon here. In many European countries, the VAT rate for print products is already well below ten percent. In countries such as Great Britain or Scandinavia, the value added tax for newspapers does not apply at all as an indirect press subsidy.
Publisher Becker not only made a demand at the European Publishing Congress, but also criticized herself: “The cuts made by publishers in the past have hit the editors disproportionately hard and have meant that, for example, the network of local editors has been thinned out more and more. That was a Mistake.”
Becker is also dissatisfied with the composition of many editorial offices. “We have all too often failed to position ourselves as colorfully in the editorial offices as our society is today,” said Becker, referring to too few women in management positions or too few people with a migration background in the media houses. “We have to be more diverse in a broader sense in order to be close to the different target groups – and, very important, to win over young people as readers.”