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Digital Advertising

Volume 685: debated on Thursday 10 December 2020

We are carefully considering the extent to which current advertising regulation is fit to tackle the challenges posed by the modern world. Next year we will be launching a public consultation on the regulation of online advertising. We are also working on more specific areas, including high fat, salt and sugar advertising, and establishing a new pro-competition regime.

I thank the Minister for that detailed answer. Local journalism is funded on the whole by local advertising, be that in local newspapers or local radio, and the structural impact of the changes in our local economies and the move online is having a significant impact on the way that local independent news is produced. Can the Minister give us more details on the steps the Government are taking to protect local journalism, which is so important to maintaining local democracy?

My hon. Friend is a great champion for local media and newspapers in his area. We recognise the vital role publications like his own Warrington Guardian play in supporting communities but also in providing reliable information. We strongly welcome the recommendations in the Competition and Markets Authority report and the setting up of a digital markets unit within the CMA to ensure fairness in regulating digital platforms. The Minister for Media and Data meets very regularly with the sector to discuss all its ongoing concerns about this.

I do not know who your secret Santa is, Mr Speaker, but I do know the Minister’s: Google and Facebook. Only, they are not buying presents—just using our data, behaviour and social contacts to tell us what to buy through their domination of online advertising, while our local retailers, who pay significant taxes and employ so many people, lose out. Can the Minister confirm that the digital markets unit’s powers have yet to be defined and that powers in the long-delayed online harms Bill are being watered down? Will she promise now to stop tech companies selling on our data, and put us back in control of our digital lives and Santa back in charge of Christmas?

I sincerely hope they are not my secret Santa. Online advertising is clearly an important driver of the UK economy. The Government are really committed to supporting the continued growth of the industry, but it needs to be fairer and better regulated. So we will launch a public consultation next year on measures to enhance how online advertising is regulated in the UK. That will build on the call for evidence we launched this year, and we will consider options to enhance the regulation of advertising content and placement online. The hon. Member asks about the online harms response. It will be published very shortly and it will not be watered down—there is my secret Santa gift for her, Mr Speaker.