Speaking in a Publishing Show panel session yesterday morning, Owen called for ministers to bring forward legislation to give the Digital Markets Unit the teeth it needs to do the job it was set up for “early in the next Parliamentary session.”
“The horrific war in Ukraine has once again thrown the spotlight on the critical importance of trusted news and information from reliable sources,” Owen said. “Right now, journalists from UK news media outlets are in Ukraine reporting from the ground in extremely dangerous circumstances so the world can better understand what is happening there.”
“I think we can all agree that journalism has a critical role to play in our democratic society which makes finding a sustainable future for the sector which invests in news a very important question for us all. And that is only possible with sustainable business models.”
The NMA welcomed the Digital Markets Unit when it was set up in shadow form in April 2021 but has stressed that the new regulator, which is designed to get under the bonnet of the opaque digital advertising market, needs to be given statutory powers to ensure a fair deal for news publishers.
Despite providing a powerful boost to the platforms by providing them with quality content at scale, publishers’ advertising revenues are “small fraction” of the estimated £18 billion which the tech platforms took in UK ad revenues last year.
This imbalance is the main obstacle to a sustainable future for journalism, Owen told delegates, but by acting quickly ministers can address this problem.
The government is expected to publish its response to a consultation on the new regulatory regime for the digital markets in the coming weeks. “This should be a landmark moment, and it is vital that ministers use this opportunity to pave the way for legislation early in the next Parliamentary session, with a Digital Competition Bill,” Owen added.
“Ministers must now play their part in defending our right to access trusted journalism with bold, forward-looking legislation which creates the right conditions for journalism to not just survive, but thrive, making the UK a world-leader in this important field.”
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