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November 1, 2022updated 07 Nov 2023 5:44am

Labour leader Keir Starmer backs law to force big tech news payments

By William Turvill

Labour leader Keir Starmer has signalled his support for legislation that would force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for news.

Starmer, whose party is widely tipped to return to power at the next general election, accused the Conservative Party of having “dragged its feet” in this area.

In an op-ed written for Journalism Matters, the News Media Association’s week-long campaign to champion journalism, Starmer also said the “UK’s proud history of impartial journalism is being put under threat by the Tories’ politicisation of our media landscape”.

He said a Labour government would “free the BBC from party political meddling”, oppose the privatisation of Channel 4, and engage more with local newspapers and radio.

On legislation that would force Google and Facebook to pay for news, Starmer said: “Big tech platforms now dominate the online advertising market, to the detriment of consumers, potential rivals, and newspapers.

“The way the government has dragged its feet on levelling the playing field between big tech platforms and news organisations threatens the sustainability of journalism. Paralysed with chaos, action on this vital issue to secure a sustainable future for journalism is stuck in a legislative logjam.

“In the platform age, it’s only fair that creators are fairly rewarded for their work and not just the platforms that profit from it. That’s why we support moves to make platforms pay for news content and to give newspapers and publishers greater control of their data and content. The government must act to secure the future of our media.”

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The Conservative government has committed to a Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, a wide-reaching piece of legislation that would include rules forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news. But publishers are concerned about the slow progress of the act, which would empower the Digital Markets Unit.

Australia passed similar legislation in 2021, resulting in payments to publishers worth more than AU$200m (£111m) a year. Canada is poised to follow suit with the Online News Act, which is expected to result in payments worth CA$329m (£209m) a year.

Starmer’s op-ed did not address the issue of press regulation, an area that could pit the Labour Party against many publishers. Labour has previously supported the implementation of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. This legislation would force publishers that are not signed up to a Leveson-compliant regulator (i.e. Impress) to pay the legal fees of both sides of a privacy or libel case no matter its result.

Rishi Sunak, the new prime minister, has also spoken out in support of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, while he has committed to repeal Section 40.

Picture: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

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