Content Aware media news: March 14, 2024

Published: 15 March 2024

Big Bro or Big Brother - can Government and media ever mix safely?

Government involvement in media: Big Bro, or Big Brother? Lawmakers can be saviours to media and free speech, or they can threaten its very existence. As social and search gobble every cent, media is increasingly looking to law for protection.

When is government involvement in media ownership and plurality a good thing? Or government involvement in the platforms that distribute the media? I suppose it depends on whose government, and what involvement.

Some paint a picture where it is never a good thing and it inevitably puts media freedom in peril. Other says Government protection and involvement in the media is a hallmark of press freedom and democracy.

And either side of the divide will come up with great examples that support their view, and place the other in poor light. And they'd probably all be right at times.

Why pose such a question?

This week saw an (assumedly) unconnected slew of Government interventions in the wider world of content and media distribution, in the US, UK, Europe, and elsewhere. 

Most eye-catching of course was the rapid progression towards law of a Bill to effectively force the Chinese owners of TikTok to sell its juggernaut video app to a US company, or move ownership to a US-based entity, under threat of a ban if it fails to do so.

The typical and vital advocacy of free speech has been a bit wrong-footed, because this is not a censorship case per se - although TikTok fans don't see it that way.  

Strictly speaking the ban is over the geostrategic ownership of user data and (not said quite as loudly, but also) the lawmakers' fear that a dial in China could be imperceptibly nudged to sway the tone of content served to its billions of users, and with it their views.

Almost at the same time, a UK law was unveiled which would ban the ownership of UK newspapers by foreign governments - an issue not many chose to think was a serious problem until the country's historic The Telegraph newspaper was on the sales block to a UAE-based fund. 

Then, and it's getting hard to see who moved first in this bus queue of regulatory intervention, the EU also revealed the final shape of the new European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) - a wide-ranging media law to amongst many things protect journalists and their sources, and prevent government or secret ownership of media.

Meanwhile of course the Meta vs Australia and Meta vs Canada bunfights drag on, Indonesia has made its view clear, and in South Africa a new inquiry into media and its relationship with Big Social and Big Search has really kicked into gear this week. 

And we don't have time to list all the regulatory probes or legal kerfuffles related to AI and content ownership currently ongoing.

As the social firms seek to run away from news and content they might ever have to bear some responsibility for, a less-heralded strand within the new EMFA law is a clampdown on the likes of Facebook's ability to remove whatever content it feels like - somewhat relevant if it is turning news off across its markets for purely business reasons

Under EMFA, social platforms would need to inform media before a content removal, and decisions to remove would be subject to review and overturn by an independent committee.

Such growing regulator and government interest in the wider business of the media and their channels to audiences is unprecedented.

You'd have to be a better-paid commentator than I to make a clear case if all the interest and action will be for the good or bad, but it's certain more of it is on the way.

We can be sure the lawyers at Big Social and Big Search are already prepping for the battles ahead, so we in media and publishing should be too - and throwing all our weight behind the national and international groups that speak for us. 

And if they don’t… it’s time for some new ones that do.

Anyway, on with this week's edition of Content Aware...

"It's not government media should be afraid of, it's Google"
More Government investigations into Big Search and media - this time in South Africa. A Competitions Commission Media and Digital Platforms Market Inquiry is looking at how news and media gets distributed and who's gobbling up the oxygen of revenue. You can access submissions here, such as Google''s submission which tries to outline what it says it does without saying what it really does.

Say what you see
First, a quick moment to SHOUT about something new we did in Glide this week: a one-button article-to-audio feature which turns things you've written into things people can hear, GAIA Voice. Usual GAIA benefits apply: no bespoking or hassly integrations, no data theft worries, it's ready to go - just turn it on and make use of it. As well as better accessibility, our testing shows good gains in page dwell time. Say it out loud: nice!

"And the winner is..."
Speaking of voice (...) do you have a podcast up and running yet? If so, get your entries into the 2024 Publisher Podcast Awards quick-sharp, a celebration of podcasts by publishers which are alongside or complementary to existing media sites or brands. Submissions for consideration close tomorrow night, Friday 15th.

Web traffic sliced and priced
Want to surmise in a single chart why so many publishers have such a love-hate relationship with Google, and why various anti-trust cases are grinding through courts? This research into who sends traffic to sites explains it all better than acres of words. Look at all that blue... do you want your business that beholden to one player? And that is not even counting for who owns that ad market too.

More libraries open to AI
Spanish giant PRISA Group and France's Le Monde are the latest heavyweight publishers to open their doors to OpenAI, signing a deal to let the service scour their archives to improve its models. No confirmation of sums involved, but assume at least tens of millions according to observers.

Down Under the cosh
An inside-the-storm view from Australian media commentator James Purtill looking at the possible long-term fallout of the ruction between the government there and Facebook, tracing the fractious relationship between Meta and Media over the years.

Fight for tomorrow today
Guy Tasaka picks apart what the future of local news media could look like, from the viewpoint that disruption brings opportunity. As many local and larger media would say, when was the last time we were not being disrupted? If so, there's a lot of opportunity up for grabs.,248517

Don't loot the messenger
EU lawmakers vote en masse to adopt the new EU Media Freedom Act, which sets out tough new rules for protection of journalists and their sources and material. It also sets rules for transparency of ownership, government ownership of media, and - interestingly, given the dispute ongoing in Australia - rules over when social platforms cannot remove news and media content.

AI's Spiderman meme moment
Two of the main image generation AIs fall out over claims of unauthorised access and what looks a bit like theft. An AI company complaining about theft?! An inference which brought the irony police out in force.

The long-tail horse has bolted
Are publishers wasting their time defending their legacy content from AI and suing the likes of OpenAI for using it to train models? This piece argues they should be much more focussed on their new content than old.