NMA CEO: Bringing Forward The DMU Legislation Is An Open Goal For Government

Bringing forward the legislation to give the Digital Markets Unit the teeth it urgently needs is an open goal for a government seeking ways to allow households to keep more of their money, News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith has said today.

In an article for Journalism Matters, the NMA’s annual campaign to champion journalism, Owen said reports had repeatedly called for action to tackle the dominance of the tech platforms but, despite progress, the job was still not yet done.

“The government made a good start by setting up the Digital Markets Unit – a tough new regulator tasked with levelling the playing field between the tech platforms and news publishers – but it still lacks the statutory teeth it needs to get the job done,” Owen said

“Just last week, MPs from an influential Parliamentary committee issued an unequivocal call for government to publish the draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill without delay. Calls which have been echoed by report after report over the last decade.

“This legislation will enable the DMU to tackle the entrenched power and market abuses in the digital economy, driving down prices for consumers and small businesses, while helping to level the playing field between news publishers and the tech platforms.

“It’s a win on all fronts and open goal for a government seeking ways to allow households to keep more of their money.”

Journalism Matters kicked off today with activity across the industry including the launch of the Making a Difference public vote to find the best local and national news media of the past year and an article by the Culture Secretary in which Michelle Donelan pledged to be a “champion of journalism.”

In his article, Owen said journalism would have an even more important role to play making sense of complex events, holding power to account, and campaigning on behalf of readers as society faces up to tough challenges ahead.

“But we must not take trusted news and information – which require significant resource to produce and distribute – for granted,” Owen added.

“The news media industry today faces a multitude of threats. Overseas, this can take the form of authoritarian regimes who seek to clamp down on freedom of speech by murdering or imprisoning journalists.

“Thankfully, we do not face such dire problems here, but we must always guard against insidious attempts to muzzle freedom speech such as Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

“This insidious piece of legislation – which would burden news publishers with crippling costs even if their journalism was vindicated – must be repealed immediately, delivering on the Conservative government’s manifesto commitment.”

Owen said local journalism was becoming even more important. He added: “In recent years local journalism, which underpins democracy in communities right across the UK, has enjoyed a boom in audiences as people increasingly turn to sources of trusted information.”   

“Local journalism is a precious resource, and it must be protected from the ravages of the deteriorating economy and the all-consuming tech platforms who exploit journalism to drive engagement yet contribute next to nothing back into the industry which invests in it.”

Owen added: “Government should explore ways to assist the local news media sector – such as through tax credits or business rates relief, as well as a firm commitment from government to keep public notices in print local newspapers – so publishers can continue to serve the growing audiences for trusted local news and information.

“An overzealous BBC, seemingly determined to expand its local news services in direct competition with commercial providers, must be steered towards partnership with the commercial sector rather than competing with it.”