Rachel Corp Issues Urgent Call For Digital Markets Unit Legislation

Government must swiftly bring forward the legislation to give the Digital Markets Unit the teeth it needs to level the playing field between platforms and publishers and create a sustainable future for journalism,  ITN chief executive Rachel Corp has said. 

Delivering the keynote speech at the Press Gazette Future of Media Conference yesterday, Ms Corp referenced the unprecedented coalition across the UK media sector, coordinated by the News Media Association, which came together in March to call on then Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take urgent action to tackle the harmful impact of the tech platforms on British media and publishing.

Ms Corp said: “Many of us were encouraged by proposals for a Digital Markets Unit outlined in the Furman report in early 2019, but our concerns about the lack of legislation to give it teeth have escalated to the point where a broad group of news brands, broadcasters, magazine and book publishers, as well as consumer groups, have joined forces to lobby for its speedy introduction.

“All incredibly important for brand awareness, but that won’t impact the bottom line unless we can level- up the relationship between platforms and publishers, potentially with an Australia-style bargaining code – a proven model that has brought opposing parties to a point of agreement, facilitating successful, fair, commercial negotiations without the need for government intervention or dispute resolution.

She added: “For several years now, ITN has warned of the threats to journalism and has put forward a number of proposals aimed at making it more sustainable.  From the government taking concerted action to protect the future of public service broadcasting by reiterating its purpose and strengthening its business model; to more stringent measures when it comes to the unregulated social media platforms, to a kite-marking system for trusted, regulated news brands online.

“It’s also a delicate ecosystem that relies on well-resourced public service television. I’ve already noted the challenges they face, and while other media are turning to subscription models, broadcast news and those digital products associated with them, remain an important free and reliable option for audiences in an increasingly crowded market that’s rife with mis- and disinformation.

“But add to this the might of the tech giants and the battle news publishers face to get fair value for their content and it’s clear that the sustainability of journalism is as fragile as ever. This is why we need media policies that properly address the seismic shifts we’ve seen and support an industry that’s the envy of the world – whether it’s the expected Media Bill, Online Harms Bill or Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

“Fact-checked, authoritative journalism has never been more important in maintaining a healthy democracy, but that comes at a cost. Can regulators make the platforms pay a fair price for quality information?”

Concluding the keynote speech at the Press Gazette event, Ms Corp called for the industry to pull together to transform and safeguard journalism for the future. 

She added: “It’s only by taking action now that we can we ensure quality, regulated, trusted journalism into the future. With the onset of winter and the cost-of-living crisis, public service journalism will continue to be vital. Let’s make it count.”