Google and Facebook will have to pay for Australian news content

The ACCC has been ordered by the Morrison Government to develop a mandatory code of conduct to govern commercial dealings between tech giants and news media companies.
The code would require platforms like Facebook and Google to pay news media businesses for the content they produce.
The fast tracking of the establishment of the mandatory code comes after a collapse in advertising revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and could be seen as a lifeline for many newsrooms, especially in regional areas, who have been forced to close or scale back their operations.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a mandatory code would help “level the playing field…It’s only fair that those that generate content get paid for it.
The digital giants have to negotiate for content or the nature of commercial agreements, but remedies would be put in place to force tech companies to accede.
Commercial Radio Australia CEO, Joan Warner, says, “We welcome the Government’s move to redress the power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian media.  We will continue to work constructively with all parties.”
Nine CEO, Hugh Marks, says, “We congratulate the Government for taking swift and decisive action on this important issue. Now more than ever, it’s important the global technology companies take some responsibility for contributing to our society through financially supporting the creation of quality Australian content.  We look forward to working constructively with the Government to get the settings in place for this to operate in a simple manner.”

Hugh Marks spoke to Ray Hadley about the issue on this morning’s program.

In December last year, the ACCC was directed by the Government to facilitate the development of voluntary codes to address bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and news media businesses. The Government indicated at the time that if an agreement was not forthcoming, the Government would develop alternative options to address concerns raised, which may include the creation of a mandatory code.

The Government has decided that the original timeframe set out in its response requires acceleration. The Australian media sector was already under significant pressure; that has now been exacerbated by a sharp decline in advertising revenue driven by coronavirus. At the same time, while discussions between the parties have been taking place, progress on a voluntary code has been limited according to recent advice provided by the ACCC following a request by the Government for an update. The ACCC considers it is unlikely that any voluntary agreement would be reached with respect to the key issue of payment for content.

As a result, the Government has instructed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code to address commercial arrangements between digital platforms and news media businesses. Among the elements the code will cover include the sharing of data, ranking and display of news content and the monetisation and the sharing of revenue generated from news. The mandatory code will also establish appropriate enforcement, penalty and binding dispute resolution mechanisms. A draft will be released for consultation by the ACCC before the end of July, with a final code to be settled soon after.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told Ray Hadley the code is about recognising the value of our journalists and their work: “It has to deal with the terms on which Australian media businesses are properly remunerated for the use of their content, because producing content costs money. We need to have this backed by the rule of law, by the force of law, and that’s why it’s a mandatory code. One of the big things here is that we need to recognise the value of journalism, and Australian journalists telling Australian stories. That content is attracting people to the digital platforms, but at the moment, they’re not producing it and they’re not paying fairly for it.”







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