NMA Calls On Truss To Introduce DMU Legislation ‘As Soon As Possible’

The News Media Association has called on the new Prime Minister to introduce the legislation equipping the Digital Markets Unit with the statutory powers it needs to level the playing field for publishers and platforms “as soon as possible.”

In a letter to Liz Truss yesterday, the NMA spelled out the industry’s key asks for government including promoting the sustainability of local journalism, retaining exemptions for journalism in the Online Safety Bill, and giving the DMU the legal powers it urgently needs.

“Trusted journalism produced by our members has a critical role to play in our democratic society, helping us all navigate complex and unprecedented challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and climate change,” said NMA chief executive Owen Meredith.   

“Local papers at the heart of their communities are also helping people navigate the current cost-of-living crisis and supporting vulnerable people in society with community campaigns.” 

It is imperative for the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech to be introduced to Parliament as soon as possible, Owen said.  “We were grateful for your commitment during the leadership election to proceed with the legislation this autumn and look forward to supporting that process.”

He added: “Sadly, in recent weeks, a number of local news media titles have been forced to close, due to increasing cost pressures and low margins, and we fear there could be more if there is any further delay to this crucial piece of legislation.

This goes hand in hand with the work being undertaken on the Online Safety Bill to tackle harmful behaviour online, and amendments within the Bill giving recognised news publishers much-needed exemptions must be retained as the government proceeds with the legislation.

Local journalism would also benefit from short-term measures, such as tax reliefs, which would help publishers bridge the gap until there is a level playing field with the platforms, Owen added. Reining in the local news ambitions of the BBC would also help give local publishers “badly needed space to breathe.”

“While online audiences for trusted, quality journalism have reached record levels, the economic reality – accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic – is that monetising news in digital remains challenging. Without urgent action to put the right support and pro-competition digital regulatory framework in place, this will cause further damage to the wider news ecology,” Owen added.

The government, the UK’s biggest advertiser, should also continue to utilise the sector’s unique and trusted connection with audiences through powerful communications campaigns such as ‘All Together’ which did so much good during the pandemic.