YouTube changed the terms of its Partner Programme, which enables creators to monetise their content on the platform.
Creators were required to reach 10,000 lifetime views in order to qualify for the programme, which enables creators to earn money from advertisements and YouTube Red Subscribers. After the 20 February 2018, an individual channel must hit 4,000 watch hours in a 12 month period and 1,000 subscribers before it will be considered for the Programme.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, states one of its core values as “to provide anyone the opportunity to earn money from a thriving channel”. This change will mean many existing members of the Partner Programme will see their channels demonetised, however.
One member of the Musicians’ Union told us “At my current subscriber count [just over 350] I was getting on average between £60 to £120 per year. However, I earned over £200 in 2017 from YouTube. I know this isn't a huge amount currently but I was still adding to my channel and growing it to get more, and I was looking at having growth in my revenue for 2018 over 2017. The income from YouTube was a nice addition to my overall income, it all adds up, and I was able to use it to buy some musical equipment.”
Naomi Pohl, Assistant General Secretary of the MU said “Unfortunately, the impact of the change will be most felt by individual creators while big corporate-run channels are unlikely to be affected at all. I’d like to know who stands to gain financially from the many smaller channels being demonetised; presumably either YouTube itself or their bigger partners.
“We already take issue with YouTube as the site accepts no liability for content posted by users, including unlicensed music.
“Through UK Music, we are lobbying to make YouTube and other hosts of user generated content monitor uploaded videos more effectively and pay more appropriate licence fees to rightsholders.”
YouTube cites safeguarding as its primary reason for the change. Since a vlog by Logan Paul - one of YouTube’s biggest stars - showed the body of a man who appeared to have killed himself, there have been calls for the platform to be regulated in the way that broadcasters are. Google is resisting regulation by an outside body and has instead pledged to change their rules to deter “bad users”.
The Union’s view is that regulation would be an appropriate step for a platform which increasingly plays the role of a broadcaster and is an active rather than passive host of content.