Collective or cartel? Danish media companies band together to tackle tech giants

July 18, 2021

3 min read

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What's going on here?

The representatives of 29 Danish media companies gathered on Friday 7 July 2021, to collectively pursue claims against the tech giants and seek a fair pay deal for content.

What does this mean?

An unofficial Danish group has formed to tackle the dominance of Big Tech in the media sector. The collective consists of major news publishers and television stations. A glaring omission from the group is huge Danish magazine publisher Egmont, but this has not stopped the group’s growing popularity – with even internet start-up Zetland joining. The group hopes to negotiate fairer and more comprehensive payment structures for the use of their content on Big Tech platforms.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Stig Orskov, chief executive of JP/Politikens Hus (media company), stated “We believe that a collective management of our rights will make for the best and most fair value regarding big tech’s use of our content.” Anders Krab-Johansen, the chief executive of Newspaper Group Berlingske Media and head of the informal group, emphasised that the purpose of the group is to prevent big tech from executing ‘divide and conquer’ tactics.

What's the big picture effect?

Following the introduction of the Digital Services Act, aimed at rebalancing the scale between Big Tech and traditional media, a whole host of options have emerged for traditional media. Under the new directive, the publishers are legally granted the right to form broad-based collective action to pursue claims against the Big Tech companies.

Since establishing the directive, only France has imposed the guideline as legislation. This resulted in Google agreeing to a $76m payment over three years to a group of French news publishers. The Australian media group, Nine, achieved an even better outcome. The same amount of money paid by Google per year and to be shared between the 120 French companies, was offered to Australia media group Nine alone. There are clearly strong incentives for the Danish government to support this unofficial group as it will likely lead to a huge pay-out.

However, there are potential problems with the growing trend of traditional media banding together to take on Big Tech. In Australia, the deal struck by huge media conglomerates were not public and restricted by NDAs. It is difficult to tell who was paid what. Moreover, the extra money generated from Big Tech will not necessarily find its way to smaller publications and investigative pieces that are the lifeblood of a diverse media. Under the Australian deal, small publications did not even qualify for payments. Small media also worry that this will further undermine their ability to compete with larger media outlets if they lose referrals from Big Tech. A (technology company) study found that more than 41% of traffic to news publishers came from Facebook or a Google search.

With more media organisations signing up to be part of the group, the Danish group can avoid these pitfalls. The group must ensure that all levels of the media hierarchy are helped. With several small publishers going out of business because of Covid, the group has the chance to stem the tide. Yet, without European-wide legislation, the group should also be careful lest they alienate Big Tech completely, which would severely impact news publishers reliant on their referrals. The negotiations between the Danish group and Big Tech are a taste of what is to come in Europe.

Report written by Andri Boda

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