SA starts market inquiry into media
March 21, 2023
By Chris Forrester
South Africa’s Competition Commission is to investigate the country’s digital media and related platforms.
The Commission is responding to a complaint made in 2021 by local media giant Naspers and its Media24 operation in which they complained that the likes of Google and other platforms failed to pay for re-use of Media24’s journalism.
The Commission’s ‘market inquiry’ is to focus on the distribution of media content on digital platforms, the Commission said. The terms of South Africa’s Competition Act, is “based on the commission’s view that there may exist market features in digital platforms that distribute news media content that impede, distort or restrict competition, and which may have adverse implications for the news media sector of South Africa”.
“This imbalance can have implications on fair payment for content and the sustainability of independent journalism,” the Commission added.
“The inquiry is underpinned by the value of a properly funded press to advance a well-functioning democracy,” the Commission said. “This includes the diversity of views from smaller media businesses and media owned by historically disadvantaged persons.”
The Competition Commission cautioned that the “nature and extent to which digital platforms impact the news media sector in South Africa are still to be evaluated and determined through this market inquiry”.
The Commission said its investigation will broadly focus on:
- The interaction and dependency of South African news media businesses on relevant digital platforms as an intermediary, distributor and link to online users for the dissemination of news content online; and
- The impact thereof on news media businesses to aggregate, display, create and monetise their news content online.
The recent changing consumer behaviour and distribution models have “impacted on the cost and revenues of South African news media businesses”, the Commission stated. “There has been a loss of traditional classifieds and print advertising revenue, as well as additional costs in providing digital news feeds and ensuring visibility on these digital platforms. While digital advertising revenue has increased and there is potential for aggregator content revenues, the features of digital platform markets can influence the magnitude of these revenue streams, which is what the inquiry intends to consider.”