The key to regulating digital platforms

Europe must leverage the tools it already has to ensure transparency and fair competition.
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European policymakers are working hard to finalise the Digital Markets Act (DMA); a long-overdue update of EU competition rules for the digital economy. But can Europe effectively enforce these rules that it is working so hard to write?

One answer may come from an unexpected place: an independent and transparent measurement that all parties accept. Ensuring the DMA provides for trustworthy audience measurement is the key to ensuring its success. Audience measurement is in a unique position to help, thanks to its century-old experience working with the media industry.

Who is in scope?

One of the biggest questions of the DMA is where to set the threshold for who is in its scope and who is not or, to put it more specifically, which platform constitutes a “gatekeeper” based on its size and reach in the EU. This is a fundamental question to the legislation, as it will determine which platforms will be subject to the strictest obligations and oversight under the new competition regime.

One of the most contentious areas of debate concerns how many active users should qualify a platform as a gatekeeper, but the reality is that the precise placement of the threshold is irrelevant if there are not clear and reliable ways to measure who is and is not above that line. If there is ambiguity, any legal action will become bogged down in disputes. Platforms can contest it, other companies involved in a suit can contest it, and public authorities can contest it.

The end result is likely to be years of wrangling. And by the time action is taken, it may be too late to have any impact on the harms the rules were made to address. Competition cases are inherently complex and take time. The last thing Europe should do is make the task of bringing and concluding cases harder.

“By leveraging this existing expertise to ensure trustworthy calculation of the number of end-users and business users, we can provide the foundation for effective application and enforcement of the Digital Markets Act”

Measurement provides the answer

In order to avoid the delays that legal disputes will bring, the market needs a single source of truth that all parties can agree on.

The good news is that the Council of the EU recognises the importance of this topic and EU Member States have requested the addition of an annex to current drafts which regulate the methodology for calculating active end-users and business users for individual core platform services.

The other good news is that there is already an established audience measurement sector with decades of experience in finding the best principles, standards, technologies, and calculation methodologies to uniformly determine the true weight, influence, and size of audiences.

Together, the members of the Audience Measurement Coalition serve most European markets to ensure that both traditional and digital publishers’ and broadcasters’ effective audiences are measured correctly, independently and are based on market standards and methodologies with clear and transparent codes of practice.

By leveraging this existing expertise to ensure trustworthy calculation of the number of end-users and business users, we can provide the foundation for effective application and enforcement of the Digital Markets Act.

A trustworthy arbiter

The audience measurement ecosystem is ideally positioned to support the DMA. To be credible, the organisations that perform the calculations must be independent and open to scrutiny, to avoid any conflict of interest and bias in the results.

Utilising trusted measurement organisations also means the standards underpinning the calculation will be accepted and agreed by all stakeholders (public and private) in advance, making them harder to dispute in legal action.

Additionally, the standards and calculations - think page views, visits, users, multi-platform users, multi-person viewers, valid versus invalid and fraudulent impressions and visitors, viewable impressions and visits and many other standards and calculations codified at both national and/or international level - require state of the art technology and processing techniques.

Audience measurement providers are the only qualified third-party actors that possess such technology at scale and who have been supported and funded by the European content, distribution, media and advertising industries to fulfil such a mission.

“If the designation of gatekeepers is not done on the basis of reliable methodologies and by sufficiently independent bodies that are trusted by the market then the fundamental goals of the DMA could be at risk”

We have the tools to ensure transparency, fair competition, and diversity of digital players

If the designation of gatekeepers is not done on the basis of reliable methodologies and by sufficiently independent bodies that are trusted by the market then the fundamental goals of the DMA could be at risk. A clear procedure for the designation of competent bodies and determination of standards for the calculation of active end-users and business users should be enshrined in the Act. If such a question is not properly addressed, we can expect continual challenges to much of the good the Act could do for European consumers.


The Audience Measurement Coalition

The Audience Measurement Coalition is a sector coalition in the domain of Audience Measurement. We are made of like-minded research companies and Joint Industry Committees, including FINNPANEL (FIN), IVW (DE), ÖWA, Médiamétrie (FR), Nielsen, Kantar, infoline and Gemius.


This article reflects the views of the author and not the views of The Parliament Magazine or of the Dods Group

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