As well as the concerns with digital platforms, the ACCC will consider the many benefits.
From a competition law perspective, digital platforms have lowered barriers to entry for creators of content, whether it be news, commentary, or otherwise. For example, digital platforms enable a consumer to upload and share original content on a global basis at very low cost. In some cases, consumers may also receive a share of any resulting advertising revenue.
Furthermore, greater access to content via digital platforms has provided consumers with greater choice. The Internet has provided access to the entire library of knowledge and content produced by anyone, anywhere on the planet. Consumers can be much more selective in the content they consume, subject to the limitations of the digital platforms that they use. Bespoke content feeds are now the norm.
Historically, media was delivered through vertically-integrated platforms, such as broadcasting for free-to-air television, cable for subscription television, and print newspapers for news content. In the 21st century, any of these forms of media may be delivered via the Internet on a digital platform on virtually any Internet-enabled device. The resulting disruption is having a profound impact on the evolution of media markets, but also delivering significant value to consumers.
The question for the ACCC, ultimately, is whether the substantial benefits delivered by digital platforms have been accompanied by detriments. If so, whether such detriments can be appropriately addressed by competition law and policy. One does not envy the ACCC in grappling with the many nuances and complexities of this issue.
While this Inquiry is stated by the ACCC to be a ‘world first’, the ACCC is not alone in examining digital platforms and may consider the experiences of international regulators in other markets. For example, in 2017, a record fine of €2.42 billion was awarded by the European Commission following an investigation into alleged abuses of market dominance by a major global search engine provider.