Media industry needs protection from the onslaught of Covid and big tech

Linda J. Dodson

The health of our publishers is at risk due to the ongoing loss of advertising revenue, not just because of the pandemic, but also to big tech, which is headquartered in the US, with little interest for what counts as the public good in the UK.

This shift in power is undermining the informal social contract that has existed between the free press and commerce in this country for centuries: you build an audience by writing what you want, and we will pay you to engage with your readers.

There are lessons for the UK from both France and Australia. Both are taking steps to require online platforms to compensate publishers for the benefit the platforms receive from hosting publishers’ content.

Closer to home, the UK’s market regulator could have a genuine and real influence on how this power game plays out. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has already pointed out that the online advertising market is stacked in favour of the tech giants at the expense of British publishers.

It is baffling that as the 60pc market-share big tech duopoly of Google and Facebook continues to eat the lunch of traditional publishers, the only challenger the big two face is Amazon, a business that has never employed a journalist or broken a news story in its existence, and which has no real incentive to support the media community.

In a vision of an even more dystopian future, news broke last month that Microsoft is replacing real journalists with artificial intelligence software.

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