Tuesday, October 20, 2015

YouTube, Please Restore Ad Revenue for Journalists Reporting on War

The text below is read aloud in this featured video

Youtube and Google have made a major change to their longstanding advertising policy and this has resulted in an enormous setback for independent journalism. Their policy change deprives independent journalists of advertising revenue if they report on such topics as war and political conflicts. This imposes a serious financial hardship for those trying to earn revenue from reporting.

For years journalists have been led to believe that they could report on the news of the day and earn an income for their work through the placement of ads which YouTube and Google would place. Now YouTube and Google have pulled the rug out from under independent journalists by arbitrarily declaring topics such as war and political conflicts to be content which they no longer consider “advertiser-friendly.” 

What we are asking for with this petition is a return to the policy which allowed independent journalists to earn income from advertising revenue exactly the way it was in previous years with the original YouTube/Google policy. The promise which YouTube/Google held of giving those reporting independently from “mass media” or “mainstream news” a way to earn revenue has been cruelly taken away.

If you value a healthy free press then we ask you to join with others signing this petition asking YouTube/Google to restore the policy they had before they changed it. The button to sign this petition and the tools to share this petition are on this page to the right. And there have been victories where YouTube has been successfully petitioned with a Change.org petition, so let's work towards another victory: Please Sign this and Share this with everyone you can.

Below are more details about how wrong, unfair and misguided Youtube and Google’s policy change is along with specific examples and explanations: 

“Monetize” is the term YouTube uses to describe allowing a video to have the ability to earn revenue through advertising.

We are asking for YouTube/Google to return to the policy which had allowed independent journalists to monetize their videos even when reporting on newsworthy topics such as war and political conflicts. It is important to note that YouTube/Google has arbitrarily imposed an enormous disadvantage on independent journalists compared to major media outlets which can and still do derive revenue from commercials appearing on their TV news shows and websites. And the very fact that there are plenty of commercials during TV news, which often features stories about war and political conflicts, calls into question the premise of YouTube's new argument that such topics are "unfriendly to advertisers.”

Author Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. cites studies in her book “The Willpower Instinct” which challenge the premise that content YouTube is now suddenly deeming “inappropriate for advertising” might hurt sales, “another study found that reports of death on the news make viewers respond more positively to advertisements for status products, like luxury cars and Rolex watches.” So if the premise that YouTube is arguing is that they have to impose their unfair policy change to “protect advertisers,” the argument doesn’t hold water. And how could it since for years YouTube had monetized videos on serious subjects such as war and political conflicts?

An example of the unreasonableness of this YouTube policy change is the demonetization of a video titled “War Warning from Madison, 4th US President.” That video quoted the Father of the Constitution who wrote,  “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” That video had been monetized for years, yet now, with the policy change, we are apparently being told that advertisers will supposedly find James Madison's words "too controversial or sensitive?”

This is the wording from YouTube's policy page as it stands now where it mentions war and political conflicts: “Content that YouTube considers to be inappropriate for advertising includes but is not limited to: … Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.” source: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278?hl=en

Yet even on that same policy page Youtube seems willing to allow for “newsworthy” content “where the creator’s intent is to inform” and “not offend or shock” when they say: “In short, advertiser-friendly content is appropriate for all audiences, from our youngest to older viewers. It is content that has little to no inappropriate and/or mature content in the video stream, thumbnail, or metadata such as video title. If there may be inappropriate content, the context is usually newsworthy or comedic where the creator’s intent is to inform or entertain, and not offend or shock.”

But the problem now is that in many cases YouTube is not taking into account if videos are newsworthy or if the creator's intent is to inform. And we can see many examples where the policy isn't even being applied equally to all content creators, some are allowed to earn revenue through advertising on subjects YouTube claims are "controversial or sensitive” while others are not even when reporting on the same topics such as war and political conflicts. (see example in this video)

There is serious concern that this policy change is being exploited to financially disincentive reporters on YouTube from reporting on things which some don’t want reported. YouTube says “when determining if a video is suitable for advertising” they not only rely on “sophisticated technology” but “we also depend on our user community to flag inappropriate videos to us for our review.” And now it appears that special interests can abuse this system by coordinating attacks in order to financially harm YouTube channels reporting things they disapprove of.

What we are petitioning for is simply the very same right to support our work with advertising revenue as the network TV news shows do. Depriving reporters on YouTube of that same opportunity is destroying the promise YouTube once held for truly independent journalism. Without the same kind of revenue generating opportunities as network news, journalists trying to report independently suffer an enormous disadvantage and many simply cannot afford to continue operating as they had. This change is effectively economic censorship imposing political censorship.

Whatever the motivation for imposing the new policy, depriving independent journalists posting videos on Youtube or writing on their websites of the same financial opportunities which major media's network news profit from is misguided and unfair. It puts those who challenge the dominating news outlets at a enormous disadvantage. Several independent media channels have put years of work into building on the funding model which YouTube's long standing policy had once promised but now that has been ripped away. If you enjoy independent media then you will want to sign this petition because without a reliable source of income many independent media cannot function at the same level.

Please don't sit back and allow YouTube/Google to take away the same opportunities of revenue earning which major media outlets can and still do benefit from on TV and websites. You can help petition YouTube/Google to ask them to stop imposing such a financial hardship on independent media. Signing this petition and sharing it with others helps spread the word. This video titled “YouTube, Please Restore Ad Revenue for Journalists Reporting on War & Political Conflicts” promotes this petition and viewing it and sharing it with others helps get the word out about our efforts.

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