Tuesday 13 April 2021 4:21 pm

UK must make tech firms pay for news, says competition watchdog

The UK must introduce a new code to ensure news publishers are fairly compensated for the use of their stories on tech platforms, the competition watchdog has said.

Daniel Gordon, senior director of markets at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), said his organisation agreed with the principles behind a new Australian law requiring tech giants to pay for content.

“A code needs to be put in place to ensure there are fair and reasonable terms between the platforms and the businesses they interact with,” he told a Lords committee this afternoon.

He added that the CMA would start exploring how a code of conduct could be used to help rebalance the relationship between publishers and platforms.

It comes after Australia introduced new laws aimed at making companies such as Google and Facebook pay for content.

But the laws, which passed following a fierce row that saw Facebook block access to news in country, allow for the two sides to sign private deals without the need for government intervention.

Gordon today said the Australian method was a “good place to start”, adding that any code would need to be statutory and therefore enforceable by law.

However, he said it was unlikely the regulator would impose prices itself and would instead facilitate agreements between platforms and publishers.

He added that the CMA was looking at other potential models, pointing to legislation already in force in Germany and France.

The watchdog will be probing the issue through the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), the new tech regulator launched last week.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has specifically asked the body to look at a potential code of conduct governing the relationship between platforms and publishers.

While the DMU is now up and running, it is likely to be powerless for its first year due to a delay in passing legislation.

Gordon said the CMA would use that time to prepare for the new regulation to come into force, as well as pushing ahead with existing investigations such as its probes into Google’s decision to scrap third-party cookies and Apple’s app store.