Culture Secretary Confirms DMU Legislation To Be Brought Forward This Parliament

The legislation urgently needed to level the playing field between news publishers and the tech platforms will be brought forward in this Parliamentary session, the Culture Secretary confirmed at the Conservative Party conference.

Michelle Donelan MP said during a fringe event that the Digital, Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill was “alive and kicking” and would be brought forward to Parliament in this session although she could not confirm the exact date.

The News Media Association has stressed the urgency of putting the Digital Markets Unit on a statutory footing warning that more local news media titles could go out of business if the vital legislation is further delayed.

In a letter to Ms Donelan following her appointment as Culture Secretary, NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said the new regime would promote competition in the digital economy, driving down prices for consumers and small businesses.

“This long-promised legislation to provide statutory powers for the Digital Markets Unit, as announced in the Queen’s Speech (Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill), will help level the playing field between news publishers and big tech platforms,” Owen said.

“It is a pro-competition regime with support across the media sector and broader digital economy, unlocking investment and growth potential right across the UK. When fully operational, the DMU will tackle entrenched power and market abuses, supporting competition in the digital economy, driving down prices for consumers and small businesses – allowing households to keep more of their money; while importantly helping ensure a sustainable future for local, regional, and national news brands – which are so vital for our society and democracy.

“We were pleased the Prime Minister committed to bringing the legislation forward this autumn during the Conservative leadership election and stand ready to work with government to support progress on the legislation.

“Without action, current inherent market inequalities will continue to undermine the financial stability of news media publishers and risk further business failures, with the closure of local newspaper titles.”

During a Policy Exchange event ‘Time to Disrupt: How can the Government support the Digital Economy?’ at the Conservative Party conference Ms Donelan was asked about the Digital, Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech.  

She responded: “That Bill is certainly still alive and kicking and we will be bringing it forward it this Parliament, I can’t give you the exact date today.”

In her main address to the conference in Birmingham, Ms Donelan also said that the Online Safety Bill would be returning to Parliament adding that it was vital to “ensure that our rights to freedom of expression and free speech are protected.”

She added: “Free speech underpins our British democracy – we are in fact a country with a long history of supporting and exporting free speech ideas. In many ways, Britain is the home of free speech. It is the beating heart on which all of our other freedoms rest.”