Adblocking companies acting as a “modern-day protection racket” have been slammed by culture secretary John Whittingdale, who offered government support to those such as newspaper websites hit by the technology.
He vowed to set up a round table involving major publishers, social media groups and adblocking companies in the coming weeks to do something about the problem.
“Quite simply – if people don’t pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist,” he said. “And that’s as true for the latest piece of journalism as it is for the new album from Muse.”
“Ten years ago, the music and film industries faced a threat to their very existence from online copyright infringement by illegal file-sharing or pirate sites,” he added.
He said that in the current climate, adblocking potentially posed a “similar threat”.
Stopping short of announcing an outright ban on adblocking, he said he “shared the concern” of the newspaper industry about the impact of the technology and would “consider what role there is for government” after hearing all sides of the argument.
“My natural political instinct is that self-regulation and co-operation is the key to resolving these challenges, and I know the digital sector prides itself on doing just that. But government stands ready to help in any way we can.”
Whittingdale was particularly damning about adblockers offering incentives for companies, or so-called “whitelisting” in which companies were “offering to whitelist providers in return for payment”.
Whittingdale’s speech, which comes in the wake of the announcement that the print edition of the Independent is to be closed, is likely to be welcomed by newspaper groups and other content providers.
In a speech which otherwise dealt with three recent reports on the BBC, Whittingdale said adblocking was far more of a competitive threat to online news providers than the BBC.
“The BBC does have an impact on online news provision but my concern is that while the BBC may make it harder, it doesn’t pose a threat to the survival which I think adblockers could do,” he said.
“The newspaper industry brought this to my attention and did not understate the severe consequences if this trend continues.”
His speech highlighted industry estimates that suggested that – within one week of going on sale – the top three mobile adblockers in the App Store were downloaded nearly 175,000 times. And in the 12 months to June last year, there was a 48% rise in the use of in adblocking use in the US and 82% growth in the UK.
This article was written by Jane Martinson, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 2nd March 2016 13.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010