How do we ensure independent publishers get what they deserve from Big Tech legislation?
News for All campaign update - July 6, 2023
As the Public Bill Committee prepares its report on the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, we share some updates on our advocacy through the News for All campaign, designed to support independent news publishers and the communities they serve.
Last year, PINF launched the News for All campaign because we believe Government and Parliament can use their powers to support independent news publishers and the communities they serve around the UK.
Since we last updated you in June, we have been busy briefing policymakers in the Government and both Houses in Parliament while continuing to grow our team of regional and national campaign organisers and, through them, our network of independent news publishers.
This week, we joined a sector-wide panel of speakers at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Media in Westminster to discuss the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.
During the event, we lent support to the draft bill, currently at the Public Bill Committee stage in the House of Commons, stressing the need for measures that will allow independent news publishers up and down the UK to benefit from regulatory decisions in the digital marketplace.
The trade publication Press Gazette covered our participation in this July 5 story, detailing the discussion that took place and quoting PINF Executive Director Jonathan Heawood’s remarks about the independent sector:
“The content that small independent newsrooms publish, [Heawood] said, is “what platforms thrive on – that they can serve up hyper-relevant content to users around the world.
‘So individually, those providers perhaps can’t make a very powerful argument for why they deserve thousands and thousands of pounds – but collectively, I think they can make a very powerful argument for why they actually deserve millions of pounds.’
He added one of the things that PINF liked about the DMCC legislation ‘is that it allows for revenue and non-revenue negotiations and allows for collective bargaining. So for the first time those small providers can get together and be more than the sum of their parts and actually get what we think they deserve.’
Heawood said that, at present, ‘we can’t establish what a fair value exchange would be because the data is locked up in the black boxes of the big tech companies’.”
The quoted section highlights some of the proposals we made, along with IMPRESS, in our detailed submissions to the DMCCB’s Public Bill Committee in the Commons and the Communications and Digital Select Committee in the House of Lords.
In our evidence, we commended the meaningful investigative powers the Bill grants the Digital Markets Unit and the flexible, bespoke approach it takes to regulating the digital marketplace, in addition to introducing a final offer mechanism for publisher-platform bargaining and the consideration given to non-payment terms including data-sharing and algorithm notification in addition to routes for payment to publishers.
We recommended introducing a different oversight mechanism over the work of the Digital Markets unit, redirecting powers from the Secretary of State, allowing for earlier introduction of the final offer mechanism, and limiting the opportunities given to the dominant tech companies to obstruct implementation.
We also called on the Government to confirm that independent publishers will be able enter collective bargaining for compensation and data-sharing with tech platforms.
On the campaigning front, we engaged three more Campaign Organisers to help us in our outreach to independent news publishers in the UK’s nations and three regions in England. Those are Rowan Gavin, joining us from the South of England, and Una Murphy and Brian Pelan, who will be our joint organisers for Northern Ireland. We now have a complete set of organisers in the nations and regions of the UK.
If you’re an independent news publisher, expect an email from our organisers soon asking for your insights on the campaign, and seeing if you’d like to get involved! Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join or have any questions.
We’re also continuing our work with Harrison Agency to develop a PR campaign toolkit that news publishers and organisations like ours that support them can use to communicate the value of independent news to our respective audiences, whether they’re readers and viewers or funders and policymakers.
Next week, we’re off to South Africa to attend the ‘Big Tech and Journalism - Building a Sustainable Future in the Global South’ conference at the University of Pretoria, where we are looking forward to discussing developments in the relationship between big tech and journalism with participants from 25 countries.
Watch this space for more News for All updates, and don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list!
How do we ensure digital competition legislation can support independent publishers?
News for All campaign update - June 1, 2023
About a month after the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, we share some updates on the state of the legislation and the rapidly growing News for All campaign, designed to advocate on behalf of independent news publishers and the communities they serve.
Last year, PINF launched the News for All campaign because we believe Government and Parliament can use their powers to support independent local publishers and the communities they serve around the UK.
We have been keeping busy since we last updated you in March, and so, apparently, have the UK’s policymakers. Things look very different today both in Westminster and in the campaign, so read ahead for updates on both!
On the political front, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill has been introduced in Parliament and debate began on May 17th. This bill, we hope, will empower the Digital Markets Unit to redress the power imbalances between tech giants and independent news publishers, creating a more competitive digital economy that allows small and start-up players and the communities that they serve to flourish.
If passed, it will impose tailored codes of conduct on large tech companies, compelling them to interact with other players in the digital market on fair and balanced terms. This will also hopefully loosen the platforms’ near-complete grip on vast swaths of the digital arena, including advertising, and bring them to the bargaining table to negotiate with publishers in good faith for revenue and data sharing, among others.
We have welcomed the introduction of this draft legislation and will advocate for its passage through Parliament while continuing to address some concerns that arise from its text.
We have also been pleased to receive assurances from the Government that the provisions in the bill are designed in a way that can benefit news providers, despite news publishers not being mentioned in the text of the draft legislation.
These assurances came in the Government’s response to the DCMS Select Committee report on the sustainability of local journalism, as well as in minister responses to parliamentary questions we worked to secure from Damian Collins, Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, and Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park and spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We were also heartened to see questions from other MPs expressing their interest in and concern for the news industry.
We, and others in the sector, hope that this bill will direct desperately needed funds from the platforms to publishers.
What have we been up to?
Since March, we have ramped up our direct outreach to MPs and Peers, complementing individual conversations with written briefings and requests for support. Last month, we met with members of the Digital Regulation and Responsibility APPG, along with other advocates in the journalism world, to discuss how this legislation can support as many publishers as possible.
The same week and with support from Reset, a News for All funder, we convened a private roundtable to discuss a UK publisher-platform bargaining code. It was a productive and fascinating conversation, bringing together a broad group of British and international regulators, media policy experts, economists and representatives of the independent and corporate media sectors.
Under the Chatham House Rule, we explored arguments for regulating the digital market, the debate around measuring the value of news to platforms, competition law and its potential to enhance media plurality, in addition to the content of the bill itself and how it may be applied.
To inform the discussion, Professor Robert Picard of the Reuters Institute at Oxford University and the Information Society Project at Yale University generously produced a paper titled ‘Bargaining for Digital Platform Compensation: An Analysis of Issues and Policy Options for Content Creators’.
In the paper, Robert expertly explores the issues around compulsory platform-publisher bargaining and recommends collective bargaining for smaller publishers as well as introducing levies on tech platforms to create support funds for micro news providers.
We are very pleased to share Robert Picard’s paper and hope it will be as beneficial and informative to others as it has been for us and our partners.
While we’ve expanded our direct outreach to policymakers, we’re also excited to announce that News for All is growing!
As legislation was fast approaching earlier in the spring, we decided it would be absolutely crucial to get the independent publishers we spend so much time speaking with and advocating for directly involved, to ensure that the campaign we are designing continues to be accurately and actively informed by their needs and experiences, and to ensure that policymakers are consistently made aware of the communities their policy decisions impact.
And so, in order to connect us with indie publishers all around the UK and to connect the publishers with each other, we have hired four national/regional Campaign Organisers, and are engaging two more.
The organisers have each shown a clear commitment to public interest journalism, and we are delighted to be working with them. These are Rhiannon Davies for Scotland, Gary Kelly for the North of England, Rhys Everquill of the Midlands, and Silvia Rose for Wales.
Get to know the organisers here! Since joining the campaign, they’ve all hit the ground running, making use of key relationships they already have and rapidly establishing new ones with publishers in nearly every corner of the UK.
To help with our advocacy, we are also excited to be working with the Harrison Agency and other partners in the sector on a PR campaign to communicate the value of and garner public support for independent news providers. We hope this campaign will lead to the production of campaign materials that all kinds of players in the indie news world can adapt and use for their own audiences. If you would like to learn more about the campaign and get involved, get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk through it!
And finally: In other news, to continue the discussions on bargaining codes with international partners, we will be attending ‘Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future in the Global South’ at the University of Pretoria in South Africa in July.
Watch this space for further updates, and don't forget to sign up for our newsletter!
Can a UK news media bargaining code serve independent publishers?
News for All campaign update - March 8, 2023
As Government gears up to introduce the long-awaited Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, we are working to ensure small, independent publishers and the communities they serve are at the forefront of policy decisions. See how you can get involved below.
The news can be a profitable business, but profits have been lining the wrong pockets.
News content shared on digital platforms generates considerable advertising revenue for tech companies but bypasses the publishers that produce it, leaving existing independent news providers in a struggle to remain afloat and new ones unable to break into uncompetitive digital markets.
Last year, PINF launched the News for All campaign because we believe Government and Parliament can use their powers to support independent local publishers and the communities they serve all around the UK.
By directing funding to small publishers that cover millions of people in underrepresented communities, policymakers can ensure those publishers can produce public interest journalism that speaks to people, for them and with them.
So what can those in power do to help small, independent publishers? Very much, in fact. And it is up to all of us to get them to do it.
Government has promised to table the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer (DMCC) Bill in Parliament before the current parliamentary session ends in Autumn 2023. While the text of the bill remains tightly under wraps, we expect that it will include a bargaining code to govern the relationship between the news media sector and tech platforms like Google and Meta’s Facebook, obliging the platforms to negotiate with news publishers for a fair share of the revenue and data their content generates.
Such a code would recognise the value of news content for the tech giants, estimated at £1bn per year in the UK alone. It would recognise the dramatically uneven and uncompetitive playing field between the publishers and the platforms, with Google and Meta’s grasp on the advertising market and access to first-party data skewing market power squarely in their favour.
In order to fulfil its promise of fostering a pro-competitive environment for UK businesses, however, the DMCC Bill must not only address competition between the two sectors, but within the news media sector itself.
When Australia introduced its (as yet unenforced) bargaining code in 2021, it failed to address this internal competition and appears to have exacerbated existing competitive struggles between publishers, inadvertently making small, local news providers less competitive against their large, corporate counterparts. This has coincided with an overall decline in journalism provision in the country.
To avoid this, the DMCC Bill must prioritise small, independent publishers. When this legislation passes and gives the Digital Markets Unit statutory powers to regulate the tech industry, we hope it will view the Australian model as commendable in principle but flawed in practice.
What have we been up to?
With generous funding from Reset and the Open Society Foundations, we have been busy working this campaign on several fronts.
First, we’ve been building a coalition of indie news publishers and support and member organisations. This is to ensure our advocacy includes as many voices as possible and reflects the needs of independent local publishers and the communities they serve.
To further inform our campaigning, we have tapped media and tech experts to help us craft a policy position that is fair, realistic and achievable.
Our work with the various stakeholders in the sector undergirds the final function of this campaign: engagement with policymakers.
Earlier this year, we called on the UK Government to adopt the recommendations made by the cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee in their report on the sustainability of local news. PINF provided a detailed submission to the Committee’s inquiry and coordinated further submissions from the industry.
We advised Daisy Cooper MP on an Early Day Motion (#901) in Parliament to provide MPs with the opportunity to pledge support for independent publishers. Members of five political parties have so far signed on, indicating cross-party buy-in for this cause.
Advocating on a bill that has not yet been published is not a straightforward process. Still, we’re confident that the groundwork we are laying now — making sure that policymakers recognise the value of independent local news to our communities and democracy — will pay off when we see the legislation later this year.
What can you do?
Everyone can engage on this, and that can take many forms.
Media and support organisations can add their voices to ours and begin mobilising their own networks to advocate for independent publishers.
News publishers can start telling their audiences about this upcoming piece of legislation before it is introduced and make sure they are ready to engage their MPs when the time comes.
Folks concerned about the state of independent, local news, and who recognise the crucial role it plays in their lives, can start calling on their MPs to commit to supporting this sector. (Asking them to sign EDM #901 can be a great start! See a sample letter that constituents can send their MPs on this matter.)
We want to hear from you! Whether you have thoughts on how this campaign can best serve indie publishers and the communities they report on, want to hear more about any of the topics we touched on, or see how you can help, please reach out to email@example.com.