News organisations and digital platforms are imbricated in complex relationships of competition and interdependence. News outlets compete with digital platforms for advertising revenue. Platforms now dominate markets for digital advertising and they are making direct moves into the news industry through services such as Facebook’s Instant Articles, Apple News, Twitter Moments, and Snapchat Discover. At the same time, news companies depend on search engines and social media to reach and interact with audiences. More traffic is directed to news outlets’ websites from Facebook and Google than any other source. Platforms constitute a market for referrals, as news companies compete with one another for click-throughs from search engines and social media platforms. This marketplace is not an even playing field and it continually changes along with policies, technologies, and business strategies. On 26 July 2019 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released the final report of their “Digital Platforms Inquiry” which outlines some of the competitive challenges faced by Australian news organisations. While it is accepted that some form of market intervention is necessary to ensure effective competition between news organisations and digital platforms, it is not clear whether competition law is the most appropriate tool to do so.
This chapter combines critical media theory and a legal studies perspective to explore the limits of existing competition rules in relation to news and digital platforms. Our analysis of the relationship between news media and digital platforms will consider potential legal and policy reforms based on changes in the industry. It also looks beyond the economic function of digital platforms to understand how the relationship between digital platforms and news media may be aligned with public values.