Australia to make Facebook and Google pay for news content

Scott Morrison

Australia will make US platform giants Facebook and Google financially cover Australian media outlets for news articles at a landmark move to safeguard independent journalism. The move, which is the first of its kind anywhere is likely to be watched around the world.

Australia is now the first nation to require Facebook and Google to cover information content provided by media companies below a royalty-style system that will become law this year, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg explained.

“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,” Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne.

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

The move comes as the platform giants fend off calls around the world for increased regulation, and a day after Google and Facebook chose a battering for alleged abuse of market power from US lawmakers at a congressional hearing.

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Following an inquiry into the state of the media marketplace and the power of their U.S. platforms, the Australian authorities late last year advised Facebook and Google to negotiate a voluntary agreement with media companies to use their content.

Those discussions went and Canberra currently says if an arrangement can’t reached through arbitration the Australian Communications and Media Authority would set binding provisions.

Google stated the regulation ignores “billions of clicks” it sends to Australian information publishers each year.

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

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

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“UNFAIR AND DAMAGING”

Media companies including News Corp Australia, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, lobbied hard for the authorities to force the US companies to the bargaining table amid a very long decline in advertising revenue.

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“While other countries are talking about the tech giants’ unfair and destructive behaviour, the Australian government… (is) taking world-first action,” News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller said in a statement.

A 2019 study estimated roughly 3,000 journalism jobs are lost in Australia in the past 10 decades, as traditional media firms bled advertising revenue to Google and Facebook which paid nothing.

For each A$100 spent online advertising in Australia, excluding classifieds, nearly a third goes to Google and Facebook, according to Frydenberg.

Other countries have attempted and failed to force the giants’ hands.

Publishers in Germany, France and Spain have pushed to pass federal copyright laws that force Google pay licensing fees when it publishes snippets of their news articles.

In 2019, Google ceased displaying news snippets from European publishers on search outcomes for its French customers, while Germany’s largest news publisher, Axel Springer, let the search engine to conduct snippets of its articles to its websites to plunged.

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The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Stephen Coates.

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