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12.07.2017

French and UK publishers form alliances against Google and Facebook

by Jane Whyatt

France’s biggest newspapers and media groups have formed advertising alliances to take on the commercial might of Google and Facebook. And in the UK, a campaign called Duopoly has gathered almost 200 signatures for a petition to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Duopoly has also won the verbal backing of Conservative Culture Minister Matt Hancock.

 

Margrethe Vestager Margrethe Vestager, Danish politician, who is currently serving as the European Commissioner for Competition

The French newspaper groups behind “Le Monde” and “Le Figaro” have teamed up to launch Skyline, a joint sales effort for all their print and online magazines. It’s a response to Gravity, an even larger new grouping. Both names have been borrowed from epic science fiction cinema, signifying that this is the future. Amongst around one hundred different media outlets, Gravity includes M6, the second biggest private TV network in France as well Les Echos-Le Parisien and the Lagardère Active group.Sports newspaper L’Équipe and magazine giant Condé Nast, the retailer Fnac Darty, telecomms group SFR ( owner of the left-leaning newspaper Libération) and the SoLocal listings group are also members. 

Francis Morel of Les Échos-Le Parisien said at the launch that the initative was a platform to respond to the problems of volume, diversity of data and power of technology presented by the internet giants. “On these criteria we are incapable of making progress by acting alone“ he commented.

Interviewed by ECPMF, French media historian and author Patrick Eveno commented: “The economic crisis is not only the fault of the big social networks,“ and said that a new industry should not have to pay to support an old one. 

But the French journalists’ trade union SNJ is demanding a “Google tax“. This is one of ten major reforms on its wishlist for the newly-elected government of President Emanuel Macron. The SNJ say funds raised by a tax on all the aggregators – not just Google – could be used to promote plurality and quality journalism in the French media.

4.2 million euros fine

Google has just been hit with a large bill – a demand for 4.2 million euros from the European Union’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. This is not a tax, but a fine for creating unfair competition in the online advertising market. In her press statement Ms Vestager explains that the Google Search engine is used to systematically promote another Google product, Google Shopping, to the detriment of other providers. The internet giant has 90 days to comply (from the decision of 29th June).

If not, Ms Vestager warns: “We can impose fines of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent, for each day of non-compliance. And it's backdated from the date of that decision to when the non-compliance started. In addition, anyone who has suffered damage from Google's illegal behaviour can claim compensation from Google before national courts. So, this decision requires Google to change the way it operates and face the consequences of its actions.“

Google has just been hit with a large bill – a demand for 4.2 million euros from the European Union’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. This is not a tax, but a fine for creating unfair competition in the online advertising market. In her press statement Ms Vestager explains that the Google Search engine is used to systematically promote another Google product, Google Shopping, to the detriment of other providers. The internet giant has 90 days to comply (from the decision of 29th June).

If not, Ms Vestager warns: “We can impose fines of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google's parent, for each day of non-compliance. And it's backdated from the date of that decision to when the non-compliance started. In addition, anyone who has suffered damage from Google's illegal behaviour can claim compensation from Google before national courts. So, this decision requires Google to change the way it operates and face the consequences of its actions.“

"Don’t kill the goose with the golden egg"

Meanwhile the British campaign against Facebook and Google also highlights the low level of tax paid in the UK by internet providers.

Interviewed by ECPMF, Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford quoted statistics from the OC&C agency, which did a study of the advertising market’s likely development over the next three years. “In 2015 the UK advertising market was worth more than £20bn. Of that, £2.4bn went to national and regional newspapers and their websites and £8.6bn went to online (for which mainly read Google and Facebook.“ (The Press Gazette petition add link

is personally addressed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundai Pinchal. Ponsford say he would like to meet them and just explain the damage they are doing to quality journalism, especially at local and regional level 

”If I could sit down with the bosses of Google and Facebook I would say this: “Please don’t be greedy because you are in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. “When it comes to the regional press the need is urgent to find a way to replace the billions that have been taken out of the industry by the loss of advertising to digital platforms. Once the regional press has gone it will very difficult to build up that network again. As good digital citizens you have an urgent moral duty to act.”

ECPMF has requested comments from Google and Facebook. Watch this space!





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