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04 March 2021

Government Understands Need To Make ‘Quick and Tangible Progress’ On Regulation Of Tech Giants

The Government understands the need to make “quick and tangible progress” on implementing the new regulatory regime for the tech giants given local publishers are under increasing financial pressure.

In its report ‘Breaking news? The Future of UK Journalism’, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee called for the Digital Markets Unit to be set up "as a matter of urgency,” overseeing a news media bargaining code similar to the Australian model.

The report was published on the same day the Government responded to the Competition and Markets Authority’s market study into online platforms and digital advertising, announcing that the DMU would be set up in April this year.    

That was welcomed by the News Media Association which has called for legislation underpinning the new regime to be implemented as quickly as possible, warning that local publishers could go to the wall as a consequence of long delays.  

In its response to the Lords Select Committee report this week, the Government stressed the vital importance of trusted journalism in keeping the public informed during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Without robust, good quality newspaper coverage of affairs in their communities, there is a serious danger that citizens will become disengaged from the democratic process, to the detriment of a well-functioning society, the Government said:

“This point was highlighted in recent research commissioned by the Government which found voter turnout in local elections is higher in areas with greater local newspaper coverage,” it added.

“The Government also agrees that, as society continues to move online, the news publishing sector is facing significant challenges in transitioning to sustainable digital business models. COVID-19 has accelerated the need to meet these challenges, at a time when verifiable, trusted news is needed more than ever.

“It remains a priority for this Government to explore all possible options in the interests of promoting and sustaining high-quality news journalism, through the continuing implementation of Cairncross recommendations and beyond.”

A mandatory code of conduct to govern the relationships between publishers and the tech giants would be at the heart of the new regulatory regime which “will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the press sector as it transitions to digital media and seeks to effectively monetise its online content.”

“We understand the need to make quick and tangible progress on this given local publishers are under increasing financial pressure.”

The Government singled out the NMA’s partnership with the BBC to boost local news for praise, citing the Local News Partnership as a standout example of industry initiatives which make “diverse and valuable contribution they make to supporting the sustainability of the press sector.”