Backlash After Reports Of Delays To Digital Markets Unit Legislation

MPs and peers have called for the legislation empowering the Digital Markets Unit to tackle the imbalance of power between the platforms and publishers to be included in the Queen’s Speech following reports it will be delayed. 

Last week, coordinated by the News Media Association, an unprecedented coalition across the UK media sector, including commercial news and magazine brands, broadcasters, radio outlets, online publishers, book and journal publishers, Channel 4, ITN and the BBC, called on government to bring forward the legislation early in the next Parliamentary session.

Reports in The Mail on Sunday and The Times over the weekend suggested the legislation will be delayed despite the urgent need for the regulator to begin work levelling the playing field. 

Julian Knight MP, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, (pictured) said: “I’m deeply concerned. The Digital Markets Unit is running in shadow form. If we’re seen as laggards when it comes to bringing forward legislation to bring competition to these enormous markets it means we won’t have any place around the table.

“We do need to come to some form of longstanding arrangement for the benefit of established news media organisations who are having their content used without any form of recompense.”

Baroness Stowell of Beeston, chair of the Lords Communications and Digital Committee, said: “We look forward to further enforcement actions from the CMA to rogue practices in the digital markets being announced in the coming months. The CMA should not wait for the legislation that will put the DMU on a statutory footing to use the powers already at its disposal to tackle digital competition issues.

“That being said, it has long been acknowledged that the CMA’s existing powers are not adequate for regulating competition in the digital world – and the establishment of the DMU on a statutory footing is an urgent necessity and should be a legislative priority for the Government.

“As the CMA highlight, and as the Committee has made clear to the Government, the EU is making progress in this area and where the UK was world-leading it now risks falling behind. I hope recent media reports that the necessary legislation will not be in the next Queen’s Speech are proved to be wrong.”

The Canadian government has this week introduced the Online News Act which will “establish a new legislative and regulatory framework to ensure fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and for independent local news businesses, including rural and remote news organizations, by ensuring that news media and journalists receive fair compensation for their work.”

The Bill “would require tech giants to make fair commercial deals with outlets for the news and information that is shared on their platforms. The deals would need to provide fair compensation, respect journalistic independence and invest in a diversity of Canadian news outlets, including independent local businesses, among other criteria. The bill allows media outlets, big and small, to bargain collectively.”