New laws could force tech giants to pay British newspapers for using their stories

Under new laws being written up the UK Government, tech giants will be required to pay newspapers and other media outlets for using their news stories. The move comes amid growing fears that large tech companies like Microsoft and Google are dominating the online advertising space.

The proposals are modelled on a system that has been introduced in Australia, which encourages payment deals to be negotiated with news organisations. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is reportedly pushing for the new legislation.

The new system will be regulated by the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), the digital watchdog branch of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) designed to rein in the power of tech platforms. The DMU will also investigate the algorithms used by search engines such as Google and is being given powers to levy large fines on online companies to prevent customers or companies from being treated unfairly and to make firms give smaller rivals access to their vast troves of data.

The Daily Mail reported that a source in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The new regime will be an important vehicle to tackle the imbalance of power between the largest platforms and publishers.”

According to sources, in 2019 Google and Facebook took about four-fifths of the £14 billion spent on digital advertising in the UK, while national and local newspapers took less than four percent. Google charges between 30 and 40 percent more for search advertising on desktop and mobile devices than Bing, its closest rival.

Commenting on the proposals, Polly Barnfield OBE, the CEO of Maybe, said: “It’s a fascinating debate. Content that stops thumbs and enables platforms to sell ads. The challenge is that we are all now publishers and the social media networks profit from selling ads that we see as we browse our social feeds. So, if newspapers now start getting paid for their content, where do you stop? Is news content more valuable than an influencer’s content? Or indeed engaging posts by a business?”