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The NLA’s extended charity discount is not enough

8 March 2013

The Newspaper Licensing Agency has announced an extension of the discounts it offers charities on their media licensing fees.

The NLA said on 5 March that it's extending its discount scheme to cover content from newspaper websites and the republishing of newspaper content for publicity purposes on charity websites. This means that the maximum discount for charities will rise from £150 to a maximum £390.

Our campaign

CharityComms has been campaigning for the burden of newspaper licensing fees to be lifted from charities altogether. We’re delighted our campaign has persuaded the NLA to review its fees, but we’d like them to go further. While we recognise that the NLA’s extension of the discount to online content will lift a small number charities out of paying the licence fee, the fee remains a burden on many other UK charities.

While 60% of charities pay under £500, the highest charity fee is more than £25,000. Our research shows that it typically costs £1 for every article copied, and the largest charities are paying over £10,000 for media licensing. An extension of the discount from £150 to £390 will have no impact on these larger charities. We have yet to hear from the NLA how many smaller charities have had their fees reduced to zero as a result of the extended discounts.

Our gripes about the NLA’s system

Crucially, this extension doesn’t address some of the charity sector’s key frustrations with the NLA’s licensing system:

  • Charities’ coverage is mainly local (with the average charity getting 80% of newspaper coverage from local newspapers), but the NLA forces them to pay for national licences
  • The calculation of fees lacks transparency and is uneven. Some charities are able to negotiate lower fees or reduced indemnities, while others are not
  • Charities are often paying to get back copy they produced themselves (as press releases). The vast majority of media articles the licence fee covers are direct coverage of the charity in question (82% on average).
  • The resources (time and money) spent on media licences divert resources from vital charitable work.

CharityComms has argued with the NLA that charities are a special case. They are not private, profit-making businesses: they do not use press monitoring for any profit-making activities. As such, we believe charities should be exempted from media licensing fees.

The NLA’s justification

The NLA says its licence fees are “a small fraction of the value charities get from their coverage” and that, distributed in the form of royalties to publishers, their fees contribute the equivalent of 800 jobs in the newspaper industry, some in hard pressed regional and local titles. “These journalists create the content which provides the publicity the sector thrives on,” it says.

However, we believe the £1.3million spent on NLA fees would be better spent on charitable work. We will continue to lobby the NLA to address these issues. In the meantime, if you are paying NLA licence fees, we understand that the new discount will apply on renewal of your licence.

Vicky Browning


Vicky became CEO of ACEVO, the charity and social leaders’ network, in January 2017, helping to empower our inspiring sector leaders to make the biggest difference they can to their beneficiaries, their organisation and to society. Vicky was previously CharityComms’ director for nearly seven years.