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Competition Commission kicks off digital media platforms inquiry

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By Ragheema Mclean

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has called for Big Tech companies like Google and Meta Platforms to be subjected to stricter regulations regarding the publishing and distribution of news content, similar to the rules governing South African media houses.

This appeal was made as part of Sanef’s submission to the Competition Commission’s media and digital platforms market inquiry, which began public hearings in Pretoria on Monday.

The Competition Commission’s inquiry is examining the impact of big tech companies on the South African news sector.

Digital platforms expected to participate in the hearings include Meta (owner of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads), Microsoft Bing, Microsoft Start, Google’s Search and News, and YouTube.

Furthermore, the panel will also hear from various stakeholders, including media houses, the Centre for Journalism and Liberty, and the Gordon Institute of Business Science’s Media Leadership Think Tank.

Speaking on VOC’s Drive Time show on Tuesday, Director of the Campaign for Free Expression Anton Harber highlighted the central issue of fair compensation, pointing out that digital platforms profit from news content without adequately compensating media houses.

“The likes of Google and Facebook are sweeping up our content and making large amounts of money from it by selling advertising on it and not compensating media houses for it.”

He emphasized that this issue is part of a global movement advocating for fair compensation for news content.

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission introduced the News Media Bargaining Code, forcing Google and Meta to strike deals with Australian media organisations.”

He added, “Indonesia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Switzerland followed suit and have all considered similar laws.”

Harber noted that while Google, Meta, and TikTok have agreed to engage with the industry and provide evidence to the commission, Elon Musk’s X has submitted a response but declined to participate in the hearings.

“This reflects Elon Musk’s attitude that he dislikes any regulations or anyone that tells him that there might be rules and consequences for his actions.”

“It’s very hard to predict the outcomes; you are dealing with very powerful global companies that are not going to give way easily; a lot depends on the willingness of the competition commission and others within government to stand firm on the issue.”

Harber said that forcing dialogue and negotiations within the industry could lead to a solution.

VOC News

Photo: Pexels

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