Culture secretary commissions study into 'opaque' world of online advertising

Digital ad market under a microscope over Facebook/Google monopoly

The UK government has moved towards launching a formal investigation into the 'largely opaque and extremely complex' online advertising industry and the power wielded by Facebook and Google on the digital ad market.

It comes following the publication of the Cairncross review, which highlighted how tech giants like Google and Facebook are the root cause of the crises facing publishers.

Culture secretary Jeremy Wright told the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday 12 February) the Competition & Markets Authority has been commissioned to study the digital ad ecosystem to establish whether there are grounds to launch a full investigation into practices prevalent in the industry, a process which would legally oblige the tech firms to hand over sensitive financial information.

Wright also said had asked the Charity Commission to investigate whether publishers can be afforded charitable status to aid local and investigative journalism.

A third tier of efforts to reform the sector will see civil servants conduct a parallel investigation into regulation of the online advertising space as a whole, a process which could result in new regulatory powers to enforce fair play.

Shadow culture secretary, Tom Watson, said the government was united in its desire for major technology companies be more accountable to parliament.

“Even in these dark days of Brexit and increasing division in politics, there is one man who is uniting this house: Mark Zuckerberg,” he said.

“He insulted us all when he refused to attend the [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] select committee. He may think the UK market and our institutions are not a priority for him. But I hope he knows there is now a new resolve that transcends our party differences to deal with the abuses by his company and others.”

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