The UK should tackle the power of Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. over Britain’s news publishers and push the tech platforms to promote quality journalism, according to a report commissioned by the government to find remedies for the struggling local press.
The Cairncross Review called for codes of conduct to govern commercial relationships between the Silicon Valley giants and news publishers that would be overseen by a regulator with enforcement powers, according to its findings published late Monday.
“While each platform should devise solutions which best fit the needs of their particular users, their efforts should be placed under regulatory scrutiny – this task is too important to leave entirely to the judgement of commercial entities,” said the authors of the review led by Frances Cairncross, an economist and former journalist.
The report comes as the UK government considers how to sustain high-quality journalism as print circulations plunge and even new digital news outlets like BuzzFeed Inc. make harsh retrenchments.
The tech giants have become a vital gateway to readers of local journalism and are under pressure to share more of their ad income. A proposed copyright law devised by European regulators would give publishers the right to demand more money from the web platforms. Google has said it might withdraw its news service from the continent as a result.
Cairncross focused on themes including the role and impact of search engines, social media platforms and digital advertising.
Under its proposals, Facebook and Google could commit not to impose their own advertising software— as Facebook does with its Instant Articles. The review said the Competition and Markets Authority should investigate the online advertising market, which is dominated by Google, Facebook and Amazon.com Inc., and where intermediaries and profit margins are less transparent than those in print.