NMA Welcomes Reports That Work On Digital Markets Unit Legislation Is Underway

The News Media Association has welcomed reports that work on legislation to put the Digital Markets Unit on a statutory footing – giving the new regulator the powers it needs to level the playing field between platforms and publishers – is underway.

Responding to a report in The Mail On Sunday this weekend, News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said: “The NMA has consistently called for urgent legislation to put the Digital Markets Unit on a statutory footing.

“We welcome reports that work on this legislation is underway and will include a requirement for platforms to pay publishers for their content.

“For too long the tech platforms have been able to abuse their dominant position to leech advertising revenues away from the publishers who invest in news content while contributing next to nothing back into the sector.

“It is vital that the new regime brings this unfair and unsustainable imbalance of power to an end once and for all, ensuring consumers have access to trusted sources of news and information online.” 

The Mail on Sunday reported that the plans are modelled on the Australia system through which the platforms are encouraged to negotiate payment deals with news organisations. If the negotiations fail, an independent arbitrator sets a fair price.

The DMU will also investigate the algorithms used by search engines such as Google, which determine how news is surfaced through those platforms, according to the report.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has told her officials that the DMU should be given “robust powers” to “drive fair terms between publishers and platforms” by introducing a binding arbitration, and be “explicitly granted new powers to act swiftly and effectively where the regulator finds that a platform has not offered fair and reasonable remuneration for its use of publisher content,” the paper reported.

A DCMS source told the paper: “The new regime will be an important vehicle to tackle the imbalance of power between the largest platforms and publishers. The measures would give publishers greater transparency over the algorithms that drive traffic and revenue, more control over the presentation and branding of their content, as well as greater access to data on how users interact with their content.

The source added the plans would also “help to redress the imbalance of bargaining power in determining fair payment for content” which by “opening up the online advertising market to competition could also see longer-term benefits for publishers” and that legislation would be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows.”