SA Competition Regulator Launches Probe Into Distribution of Media Content

South Africa’s competition regulator is looking to address anti-competitive practices of social media platforms and search engines with regard to news content distribution.

The Competition Commission of South Africa has announced a new probe into the distribution of online media content in the country. The rationale for the probe is that digital platforms that distribute news media content, and associated Adtech markets, “that might restrict, distort, or impede competition, with potential adverse effects on South Africa's news media sector.”

“The inquiry comes at a critical moment for the media industry as news consumption rapidly shifts online and traditional sources of funding to print and broadcasting advertising decline,” said Doris Tshepe, commissioner of the enquiry.

According to the commission, a growing shift towards consuming digital news sources has become a crucial means for news media businesses to reach consumers, leading to greater reliance on these platforms over time. The commission intends to scrutinise the role digital platforms and Adtech market dynamics can influence competition for these revenue streams.

The inquiry will primarily concentrate on key digital platforms, including search engines, social media sites, video-sharing platforms, and news aggregation platforms, as well as Adtech market participants on the supply and demand sides, and Ad exchanges.

A global trend

South Africa joins numerous countries, including Canada and Australia, which have sought to reign in the dominance of social media platforms and search engines in online news distribution. In Canada, the Online News Act was passed which compelled social platforms and search engines to pay news outlets for news content accessed on the platforms. Meta ended news sharing on its platforms in Canada last month in response to the legislation. 

In Australia in 2021, before the passing of the News Media Bargaining Code, Facebook blocked news on its platforms across Australia to protest a proposed law that would have forced it, along with Google, to pay media companies for stories appearing on their sites. About a week later, Facebook and Google struck a deal with the Australian government and the restriction stopped.

In South Africa, it remains to be seen how the inquiry’s findings, expected in 18 months, will impact online news content distribution in the country. In July, following an inquiry into the allegedly anti-competitive practices of online platforms, the commission issued remedial action which forced Apple, Google Search,, and Uber Eats to enact more inclusive and competition-friendly practices.

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