ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry final report is released

The Government has released the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry final report that, amongst other topics, has looked at the relationship between news media businesses and digital platforms.
The report has found that digital platforms are both rivals to, and essential business partners of, content creators including news media businesses.
The relationship between Google and Facebook, as a critical sources of news, and news media businesses, including radio, TV and newspapers, is seen as lopsided because the relationship provides each of Google and Facebook with substantial bargaining power in relation to many news media businesses.
According to the report the content produced by news media businesses is important to digital platforms. For example, between 8 and 14 per cent of Google search results trigger a “Top Stories” result, which typically includes reports from news media websites including niche publications or blogs.

While the digital platforms clearly value the news media content that they are able to display to their users, Google and Facebook each appear to be more important to the major news media businesses than any one news media business is to Google or Facebook.

Given this imbalance the ACCC recommends that designated digital platforms should each separately be required to provide a code of conduct to the ACMA to govern their commercial relationships with news media businesses.

Google is the largest source of referrals for websites of print/online and online only news media businesses and websites of TV news media businesses. Facebook is the largest source of referrals for websites of radio news media businesses.


The report also raises concerns over the disruption of not only Australian media but the risk of underinvestment in journalism as shrinking advertising revenue for news services and a decreasing number of journalists is having a negative effect on news production.

The report has found that the public broadcasters, SBS and ABC, are not currently resourced to fully compensate for the decline in local reporting previously produced by traditional commercial publishers and a recommendation has been put forward that a new program of direct grants targeted at local reporting, replaces the Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package, which is due to terminate in June 2021.

Among other key findings of the report, it was found that despite digital platforms increasingly performing similar functions to media businesses, virtually no media regulation applies to digital platforms in comparison with some other media businesses.

The report contains 23 recommendations, spanning competition law, consumer protection, media regulation and privacy law. 

The full report is here

Commercial Radio Australia CEO, Joan Warner, says “We congratulate the ACCC on delivering a landmark report into the significant and complex issues raised by the rapid growth of the digital platforms in Australia.
“We’re pleased the report recognises action is needed to address issues of market power and regulatory imbalances between the digital platforms and Australian media businesses.
“The recommendations are comprehensive and will take time to work through, but overall it’s a positive outcome for consumers and the local media industry.
“Greater transparency into how digital platforms operate in the advertising market will only be good for the wider industry and all Australian businesses making investment decisions on advertising expenditure.
“We support the development of a code of conduct to govern relationships between digital platforms and media businesses.
“The radio industry looks forward to actively engaging in the 12-week consultation process.”
The report shows comparative spending on media for the past 20 years, with radio reasonably steady, while other media have suffered declining revenue in the face of increasing revenue to digital companies.





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