Australia questions tech giant impact on media industry

165
digital media ACCC
The ACCC probe will investigate the media dominance and integrity of digital media platforms. Photo: Lobo Studio Hamburg, Pixabay

An investigation into the market dominance of sites like Facebook and Google has been launched by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).The aim of this investigation is to determine if these websites have had a negative impact on Australia’s advertising and media sectors.

The call for this investigation comes after an Australian government formal inquiry into the effect internet giants are having on the media industry. This is a part of a change in media laws expected in September.

After the prevalence of technology companies over the 2016 US election, there has been international pressure on governments to better regulate the dominance these tech influencers can maintain.

ACCC officials claim that the investigation is to be fair and open minded, determining the true impact these technology companies have. It will examine the social and political power that the tech companies are generating.

It will specifically examine if the tech companies are abusing market power to the detriment of consumers, content creators and advertisers. The investigation will also seek to determine the longer term effects of technological change on media and advertising.

As internet media channels grow there has been an escalating concern that it has sidelined traditional media and affected its ability to fund content creation.  This investigation is occurring during a period of uncertainty for print media and the larger publishing industry.

According to researchers total advertising revenue for US newspapers was only 18 billion dollars last year compared the 49 billion dollars a decade prior. Facebook and Google are coming close to monopolizing internet advertising as they were seen to have shared 85% of ad revenue growth in 2015-2016.

The calls for tighter regulation of these platforms comes after reports that Russia had used Facebook advertising to deliver subversive messages prior the 2016 US presidential election.  The United Kingdom’s government has also investigated if Russia used similar tactics to influence the results of the “Brexit” vote last year.

This governmental probe into the validity of digital media’s advertising dominance follows fears that journalistic integrity and the overall future of journalism as an industry is being subverted by the phenomenon of ‘fake news’.

The idea for this investigation was born during negotiations regarding media reform in parliament earlier in 2017. These parliament sessions resulted in a relaxation of ownership laws so that Australia’s media giants could better compete against the likes of Google and Facebook.

The ACCC will begin questioning and demanding documentation from the tech companies it finds to be anti-competitive. The final results of the investigation are due to be reported in 18 months’ time.