Dutch media companies outline collaborative guidelines to guide Big Tech discussion

By L. Carol Christopher

INMA

Pleasant Hill, California, USA

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On June 7, 2021, the EU implemented its Article 15, which “provides press publishers established in the EU with the right to claim revenues from online uses of their publications by information society service providers,” giving news publishers the opportunity to pursue ways of leveling the playing field with international tech giants.

Letter from publishers regarding the formation of a new cabinet

In the Netherlands, publishers have addressed a letter to government ministries, and in particular, Drs. Mariëtte Hamer, informateur, or chief negotiator, a member of the Dutch Labour Party, former member of the Dutch House of Representatives, and currently president of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER). The informateur collaborates with political parties on the formation of a new cabinet.

The letter, dated July 5 and available online in Dutch (and which we translated via Google Translate), is a response to the June 7 implementation date of the EU’s Article 15. It urges the future government to action, citing a previously “insufficient sense of urgency in Dutch politics,” and offers guidelines for adapting policy.

It had five publisher signatories from the five largest media companies in the Netherlands — EU broadcast group RTL, the EU-owned media groups DPG Media and Mediahuis, Dutch public broadcaster Nederlandse Publieke Amroep (NPO), and the Dutch-owned Talpa Network — all of which are European-owned.

A letter to the Dutch government from these five media companies makes specific requests on the issue.
A letter to the Dutch government from these five media companies makes specific requests on the issue.

The publishers received assistance from Media Perspectives, which describes itself this way: “Media Perspectives takes the initiative to develop future perspectives for a healthy Dutch media sector together with all relevant parties. A sector that brings us economic prosperity, employment, technological knowledge and prestige, but also has a significant social role. From our broad network, we make indispensable connections between business, knowledge and talent and between all parties in the media sector.”

As in other countries where news media needs and government policies coalesce around the ideas of cultural preservation, economic redress, and political stability, the letter seeks to draw attention to the media’s “crucial role” in Dutch democracy and culture.

It also points to the increasing pressure on that role because of the “rise of international platforms such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, TIkTok, and many more.” Here, the Dutch letter stands out because it specifically names platforms other than U.S.-owned entities such as Google and Facebook.

The publishers state: “[A]lmost all Dutch people use our services every day. With the new cabinet to be formed, we want to explore how we as a media sector can contribute to the mission-driven innovation policy. We also ask how the new cabinet could support our innovation agenda.”

The letter says there is added value in the competition between media outlets, saying that the “ideal media landscape” offers space for “various, independent media that mainly offer Dutch content via their own platforms,” guaranteeing diversity, quality, and consumer choice. The consequences of an unlevel playing field, it argues, are both social and economic, and leave publishers at the mercy of “foreign media technology companies for the visibility of our brands, platforms and offerings, for direct access to consumers and to generate revenue from subscriptions and advertisements.”

Guidelines for the new government

The publishers made the following recommendations:

  1. A level playing field: “Intervention (at European level) is necessary to create a level playing field in which international tech platforms will meet the same requirements as Dutch media companies and abuse of market power by these parties is combated. In addition, we also urge a firmer and sharper stance on the part of the Dutch cabinet within the EU in order to tighten up the regulations announced by the European Commission in such a way that a level playing field Is actually created.”
  2. Space to collaborate: The letter says that despite the need for healthy competition, there are also “various possibilities for collaborating,” calling for innovation, technological development, or the development of advertising technology that is independent of “American parties.” It adds: “We ask the new government to be prepared to explore how such cooperating can be stimulated, and we ask the new government to commit itself, if necessary, to adjusting the European frameworks in response to wealthy companies from outside Europe, who are increasingly embedding themselves in the European media landscape.”
  3. Joint innovation: The publishers offered a vision of non-competitive collaboration in the field of socially relevant innovation, especially in the use of Artificial Intelligence and the “development of digital infrastructure that allows the sector to be independent from international tech platforms,” noting particularly the “field of personal data, advertisements, or the application of Dutch speech.” Collaborating would allow them to challenge the economic dominance the platforms hold in technical innovation and development.

Time and patience

The letter concludes by asking Dr. Hamer to ensure that the guidelines are included in the new coalition agreement: “[It] can serve as a starting point for a conversation between us as representatives of the most important media organisations in the Netherlands and a new cabinet about how we can work together on a competitively healthy and innovative Dutch media landscape.” 

The media companies await a response from the government to their July 5 letter.
The media companies await a response from the government to their July 5 letter.

INMA member and Mediahaus Nederland’s CEO RIen van Beemen said there has not yet been a response from the government. “We will await the governmental formation process and see how that develops. Furthermore, we’ll start talking to ministries of OCW (education, culture, and science, under which the media industry is allocated) and EKZ (economy).” 

The government coalition talks had reached a stalemate in June, but were scheduled to resume this week, according to DutchNews.nl. In a separate action, described by Mediahuis, these five signatories have joined with seven others to investigate the possibility of joint management of the new Press Publishers’ Right, the Dutch transposition of EU Article 15.

About L. Carol Christopher

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