Industry News

Parliamentary Committee recommends that the Online Safety Bill should protect consumer and business magazines’ content

By Sebastian Cuttill

14 Dec 2021

MPs and peers have recognised PPA’s calls for consumer magazine and business media content to be protected in a new law aimed at regulating social media and tech giants.

The Joint Committee of MPs and peers scrutinising the draft Online Safety Bill has said the proposed legislation requires greater protections for news publisher content. The Committee’s chair, Damian Collins MP, said that the recommendations aim to regulate an industry which has become “the land of the lawless”. The Bill is widely viewed as one of the most far-reaching attempts to regulate online content seen anywhere in the world and could have implications for digital regulation far beyond the UK.

PPA has made the case that the draft Bill fails to recognise the value of specialist publishers’ content, arguing that content that is already subject to independent regulation should not be impacted by the duty of care placed on tech giants. The Committee recognised PPA’s concerns regarding the scope of the definitions of content to be protected, stating: “The Professional Publishers Association called for the “news-related material” requirement to be changed in favour of including consumer magazines and business media, which may currently fall outside of the definition if not focussing on current affairs”.

Accordingly, the Committee recommended that Government work with PPA to create a definition which encompasses specialist publications, stating: “We are concerned that some consumer and business magazines, and academic journals, may not be covered by the Clause 40 exemptions. We recommend that the Department consult with the relevant industry bodies to see how the exemption might be amended to cover this of, without creating loopholes in the legislation”.

In addition, the Committee recommended that the exemption for news publisher content should be strengthened in order that such content “should not be moderated, restricted or removed unless it is content the publication of which clearly constitutes a criminal offence, or which has been found to be unlawful by order of a court within the appropriate jurisdiction”. The Report is expected to be influential, with Secretary of State Nadine Dorries having pledged to look at the recommendations “very seriously”.

The Government must respond to the Committee’s report within two months, with the legislation expected to be passed in late 2022 or early 2023. PPA will look to engage with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to create a definition of “news-related material” which encompasses specialist publications, recognising our sector as an indispensable element of the UK’s media ecosystem.

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