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Call for digital ads to face news probe

News, 10 March 2017
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LONDON: The British government should set up an urgent investigation into Google, Facebook and the digital advertising supply chain to combat the spread of fake news, a leading media trade body has urged.

The News Media Association (NMA), which represents national and local newsbrands in the UK, said the government needs to take action to ensure that genuine news outlets can survive, The Times reported.

The NMA's recommendation came in a submission to the House of Commons' culture committee's inquiry into fake news and it follows concerns voiced by Procter & Gamble's CMO, Marc Pritchard, as well as a recent Times story about brands unwittingly serving programmatic ads on extremist websites.

According to the NMA, regulators Ofcom and the Competition Markets Authority should examine the impact of Google, Facebook and other digital platforms on the UK media landscape.

It also recommended that the culture committee call witnesses from these companies as well as major advertisers to better understand developments.

"News media publishers are by far the biggest investors in original news content, accounting for 58% of the total UK investment," said Ashely Highfield, NMA Chairman.

"But the digital supply chain rewards the distributors of content, not the originators. Government and regulators cannot ignore for ever the impact of the Google-Facebook duopoly on our media landscape," he added.

Separately, Lucy Gill, the NMA's legal policy and regulatory affairs adviser, told the Press Association: "We're asking Google and Facebook to examine if what they're doing is creating a sustainable environment for real news and asking these companies to conduct meaningful reviews of the news."

However, coinciding with the NMA's call for the digital advertising supply chain to be cleaned up, two leading UK and US standards bodies announced they will work together to deal with some of the biggest issues, such as brand safety and fraud.

The UK's JICWEBS and the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) of the US said they aim to learn from each other's initiatives to create a united and consistent approach across markets to tackle criminal activity and clean up the digital ad supply chain.

"Since 2014 TAG has built programs to tackle fraud, malware and piracy in digital advertising, as well as promote transparency and brand safety," said Mike Zaneis, TAG's President and CEO.

"However the message from advertisers is clear: we need a consistent and joined up approach across markets and we look forward to working with JICWEBS to progress delivering this."

Richard Foan, Chair of JICWEBS, said: "JICWEBS has made great strides in promoting greater transparency in the UK digital advertising market, as well as minimising the risk of advertising fraud. But we need a global approach for local markets and I believe JICWEBS and TAG will offer this."

Data sourced from The Times, Press Association, TAG, JICWEBS; additional content by Warc staff

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