Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) were today summoned by the House of Lords as part of its on-going investigation into media convergence, media power, and future regulation of the media.
Senior figures from the two tech giants were summoned by the Communications Committee, which is leading the investigation. The committee will be meeting with Simon Milner, policy director at Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), as well as Sarah Hunter, Google’s head of UK public policy, and Edward Rousell, executive editor of digital for the Telegraph Media Group.
In the past, the committee has taken evidence from Virgin Media Group, Channel 4, and the BBC – however this will be the first time that pure-play Internet companies will be participating.
The fact that the Communications Committee has also called for Facebook to advise them is also a sign of the growing power of social media to distribute content. It’s surprising that Twitter wasn’t also called to the investigation, given that it too plays a big part in media distribution. The Communications Committee, in calling Google and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to the investigation, are asking them to provide advice on the role played by aggregating websites, or “intermediaries” as the committee describes them.
“One of the more remarkable of these changes [in media] is the emergence of so-called ‘digital intermediaries,’ like Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). As part of their inquiry, the Committee is naturally interested to explore the role played by such intermediaries, and to consider what, if any, implications for public policy this may have,” said a spokesperson.
There is currently no listed agenda for the session, which is planned to take place on December 4. The purpose of the meeting will likely be to listen to the two companies and consider their roles in future legislation.
In a statement, the Communications Committee wrote: “What challenges and opportunities do they present for news plurality, jurisdiction, and content standards, and how can the best outcomes for the UK public be ensured?”
The House of Lords works together with the House of Commons to pass and implement media and communications legislation, which is overseen by Ofcom - the country’s communications regulation body. This particular enquiry was begun in August of this year. It comes at a time when the UK’s media has been under heavy scrutiny.
Yesterday, the findings of the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics recommended a new self-regulating body for the press in order to promote high standards. There will also be a legal duty for the government to protect the freedom of the press.
According to a spokesperson from the House of Lords, the committee’s next step will be producing a report next year, “which the UK Government will be obliged to respond to within two months.”