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  • Writer's pictureHani Barghouthi

One step closer: Making Big Tech pay for the news they use

As the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill makes its way to the House of Lords with an important amendment in place, and we expand our advocacy work on behalf of independent publishers and the communities they serve up and down the UK, Hani Barghouthi shares an update on PINF’s News For All campaign.


 

Since I last updated you on our campaigning work in July, we at PINF have learned that a lot can happen in four months. For example, we can:  


  • Support 200 independent publishers, with our campaign organisers, to write letters to their MPs demanding support for a fair digital marketplace in the UK;  

  • Advise the Government on an amendment to allow independent publishers to band together to bargain collectively in negotiations with Big Tech;

  • Celebrate that amendment passing the House of Commons to become a part of the Bill; 

  • Connect with and brief a whole slate of key policymakers from both Houses of Parliament and across the political spectrum on the issues concerning small, independent publishers up and down the country;  

  • Run a consultation with our network of independent publishers and advise the Government on the opportunities and risks to independent news that accompany Artificial Intelligence; 

  • Launch an exploratory campaign to reform how local authorities spend £50-70m of public money;  

  • Publish op-eds in an international trade outlet and with independent publishers in all four nations of the UK;  

  • Commission economic research to determine the value of independent news to tech platforms in the UK; and 

  • Get excited about plans to expand our campaigning efforts in the new year!  


So, it has been a busy few months, and the next few are promising to be no different.  


This week, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill was debated in the House of Commons and passed, meaning it will now head to the House of Lords for further scrutiny. We’re told this will happen in early December.  


As we have said before, we’re supportive of the Bill and believe it will introduce some desperately needed balance in a highly unequal digital marketplace.  


We’re particularly pleased that the Bill now includes clauses affirming the ability of multiple third parties – news publishers among them – to act jointly while negotiating for fair and reasonable trading with tech giants.  


This means a group of small, independent publishers can come together and present the Competition and Markets Authority with a single offer that captures the total value they all bring to Google, for example, and demand fair compensation as a collective instead of having to use limited resources to negotiate individually with some of the world’s largest companies.  


This, we believe, goes beyond what was previously allowed in the UK’s competition law, and makes the process much simpler for independent players. It was a key point in our advocacy work on the Bill, and we’re now in discussions with partners in the sector to see how we can optimise the way this new regime works for independent publishers when it is implemented.  


We are not done engaging with policymakers on this legislation, however, because more can be done to strengthen the bill and ensure it facilitates as fair and competitive a digital market as possible.  


We will now focus our efforts on advocating with members of the House of Lords for more transparency with and from the regulator, less centralised power in the hands of the Government and fewer opportunities for tech giants to obstruct implementation.  


Also on the legislative side, we are exploring what might be required to reform the way local authorities place public notices in news publications – for which they pay corporate giants a lot of money every year.  


In response to our concerns, Richard Fuller MP has tabled a Written Parliamentary Question on the matter. Watch this space for updates.  


In the meantime, as we look ahead to what implementation of the Digital Markets bill might look like for indie publishers, we have commissioned FehrAdvice, a Swiss consultancy, to conduct research into the relationship between independent news and tech platforms in the UK to help determine the value of good quality, rigorously reported and trusted content to the platforms.  


The project is based on work FehrAdvice has carried out in Switzerland and other countries that has yielded fascinating results and been the basis for research our colleagues in the United States have replicated across the Atlantic. We’re very excited to see the results of this UK version, on which representatives from partner organisations like Impress, Ping! News and the Media Reform Coalition and others have been offering invaluable insights.  


And while we work to learn the value of publishers to platforms, we’re excited to continue work on a PR campaign to communicate the value of indie publishers to the public.  


Over the last few months, we have worked with Harrison Agency to design campaign messaging that we debuted for the publishers who attended the Independent News Forum in Bristol last month.  


Participants expressed excitement for a coordinated public-facing campaign to raise the profile of independent publishers all over the country, and with that enthusiasm propelling us forward we are designing the next stages of what we hope will be a comprehensive and far-reaching campaign in the new year. 


Helping us get publishers involved in the campaign will be our intrepid campaign organisers.  


Since the spring, the organisers have built relationships with more than 200 indie publishers in all corners of the UK, soliciting their crucial involvement in our advocacy work and helping facilitate a new informal network of publishers that we’re hosting and have watched grow and become more collaborative by the day.  


In the new year, we will be inviting a new organiser to join the team to help expand our efforts and get even more indie publishers connected. 


And break! That’s it from me for now. As ever, for more updates on advocacy and across the different areas of our work at PINF, sign up to our newsletter here.  


If you have any questions or thoughts on anything campaigning, please feel free to reach out at hani@publicinterestnews.org.uk. For any other inquiries, contact@publicinterestnews.org.uk is the place to go.  


Hani Barghouthi is Campaigns Manager at the Public Interest News Foundation. 

 

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