Big Tech and news

a critical approach to digital platforms, journalism, and competition law

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

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 challenges faced by Australian news organisations. While it is generally accepted that some form of market intervention is necessary, it is not clear whether competition law is the most appropriate tool to address these challenges. This chapter aims to shed light on two questions. First, what are the limitations of traditional instruments and approaches that have been applied in the assessment of competition issues in markets such as manufacturing when they are applied to online markets? And, second, should competition law and policy be used to further non-economic goals, such as promoting the plurality and quality of news media? In order to use competition law in these new types of markets reforms will be indispensable.

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. The chapter will consider whether conventional legal definitions and policy approaches can be applied to the current media markets. 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAlgorithmic distribution of the news
Subtitle of host publicationpolicy response
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

Keywords

  • Digital platform
  • journalism
  • news
  • Australia
  • Competition law

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