The Competition Commission requests comments on inquiry into big tech platforms in South Africa

December 20, 2023
2 min read
South Africa's Competition Commission
  • The Competition Commission, through the Media and Digital Platforms Markets Inquiry (MDPI), has requested comments on its Further Statement of Issues (FSOI) concerning its investigation into discrepancies between South African media publishers and big tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google.
  • It comes less than six months after the commission published its market inquiry on online intermediation platforms, a report outlining its conclusions, and corrective measures after examining the competitive practices of several top online platforms. 
  • In response to comments received from media, digital platforms, publishers, broadcasters, and associations, the Commission released a Further Statement of Issues (FSOI) after releasing a Statement of Issues (SOI).

After examining the initial submissions, six more themes were added to the follow-up address, which the FSOI will investigate. The themes include;

  • Incorporation of constitutional interpretation into the inquiry
  • The impact of mis- and disinformation
  • The emphasis on radio and TV broadcast news media (especially the public broadcaster)
  • The measurement of news and its benefit to search and social media platforms
  • Revenue share arrangements between news media and digital platforms
  • The role and importance of transparency in platforms and Advertising Technology (Adtech) markets

As the Commission had previously explained, news organisations provide a significant portion of the advertising revenue that major search and social media platforms receive from traffic, engagement, and data collection.

It acknowledged that the rise of digital platforms has significantly impacted traditional news media organisations and their revenue streams in recent years. But it also maintained that there are reasons to believe that the existence of market features within digital platforms that distribute news media content restricts and impedes competition. 

Per the regulator, “The transition to digital news consumption and advertising has resulted in publishers seeing a massive decline in advertising revenue and an increase in costs, as newsrooms need to devote resources to their digital presence.”

Additionally, its investigation into the online intermediation platform market revealed that Google's market dominance and business strategy have an impact on platform competition, making it more difficult for new and smaller platforms to become visible and attract users.

Google should implement new platform site units, according to the inquiry, to display smaller South African platforms that are relevant to searches. 

In July 2023, the Commission issued a report that included corrective measures for anti-competitive practices and the findings of an investigation into the competitive practices of some of the industry's leading platforms, including Google and Apple. 

In September 2023, it issued a notice highlighting the need for a market investigation into distributing media content on digital platforms. The report emphasised the challenges that local online platforms face at the hands of global platforms such as Google and Meta. 

Subsequently, on December 19, 2023, the Commission invited the relevant parties to submit their ideas for FSOI, which included additional themes.  

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In the meantime, the MPDMI has asked for thorough feedback on the recently added themes to direct its procedure, gathering of evidence, conclusions, and corrective measures. The deadline for submissions is January 22, 2024.

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