Digital giants to pay up for news content

Google and Facebook will be forced to pay millions for Australian news content under a landmark plan to level the playing field for ailing media outlets.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced a mandatory code on digital platforms to be finalised in July, four months earlier than planned.

The coronavirus outbreak has seen a collapse in advertising revenue leading to regional outlets shutting and scaling back operations.

"It is about holding these tech titans to account, about ensuring genuine competition, it is about delivering a level playing field," Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"It is about keeping jobs in journalism and it is about ensuring a fair outcome for all."

Facebook and Google have a stranglehold over the digital advertising market and benefit greatly from the content of news publishers on their platforms.

For every $100 of online advertising excluding classifieds, $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other players.

"What we've seen with the rise of the digital platforms is many consumer benefits but also a large disruption," Mr Frydenberg said.

Talks over a voluntary code between the ACCC and the digital giants broke down, prompting the government to make it mandatory.

Labor's communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland has long called for the mandatory code to be fast tracked.

"It is disappointing that it has taken a global pandemic for this government to find a sense of urgency about the state of Australia's news media," she said.

The new code will include enforcement, penalties and ways to deal with disagreements between the global platforms and local media companies.

While Spain and France have made failed attempts to make the companies pay up, Mr Frydenberg believes Australia can succeed.

Prices for content or the nature of commercial agreements would need to be negotiated but remedies would be in place forcing tech companies to comply.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has welcomed the move and will scrutinise the government's proposed legislation.

The union will also monitor how funds are distributed, arguing it should support emerging journalism instead of just existing outlets.

Responsible Technology Australia says the code must include measures on the spreading of fake news.

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said Google and Facebook had built trillion-dollar businesses by using other people's content and refusing to pay for it.

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks also welcomed the move.

News Corp and Nine have cited the impact of digital platforms on their bottom lines as part of their move to close down Australian Associated Press, the 85-year-old national newswire.

 

Source: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6727894/digital-giants-to-pay-up-for-news-content/?cs=14264

 

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