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Australia to Force Tech Giants to Pay for News in Landmark Move

David Paul

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The move aims to protect independent journalism from the power imbalance in favour of firms like Facebook and Google.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that Facebook and Google will have to pay smaller news organisations for content published on their platform.

The Commission released the first draft of its news media bargaining code, which states that the tech giants must pay small news outlets to publish independent content on their sites.

Australian lawmakers say the code will aim to address the bargaining power imbalance between small news publishers and major digital platforms and bring about fair payment for news.

This is the first time that a country has required Facebook and Google to pay for news under a royalty-style system that will become law this year. The scheme was announced by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who said it was important for Australian media.

He told reporters in Melbourne: “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses. It’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape.

“Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake.”

The draft announcement comes after calls for major technology companies to be scrutinised and fall under greater regulation, and days after Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple defended their increase in power in front of US lawmakers during a congressional antitrust hearing.

Previous research by the ACCC found that the failure of Facebook and Google to pay for news was impacting on advertising revenue which funds journalism for smaller media outlets.

The code doesn’t specify how much an individual news piece would cost but suggests a negotiating process between the organisations to come to an agreed price.

To be eligible to bargain, a business must have employed journalists, earn more than A$150,000 per year in revenue and be registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

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Google says that the regulation is ignoring the “billions of clicks” that it sends to Australian news publishers each year.

In a statement, Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said: “It sends a concerning message to businesses and investors that the Australian government will intervene instead of letting the market work.

“It does nothing to solve the fundamental challenges of creating a business model fit for the digital age.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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